The Ostwind (Eastwind in German) was an interim Flakpanzer created as a short-term solution whilst the armoured FlaK units were awaiting the production of the Kugelblitz to protect Panzer units in the field from the threat of the Allied fighter bombers during the latter part of the war. More than the Wirbelwind, this Flakpanzer eventually had a full production run using dedicated manufactured chassis and turrets, whereas the Wirbelwind used reclaimed hulls. This particular Ostwind, however, is a facsimile of the one prototype, produced in mid-1944 and tested in combat on 23 September 1944. Data regarding this Panzer is hard to come by, as are original photographs. In fact, following the end of the war many technical details were lost due to lack of paper reference and surviving examples of this rare Flakpanzer. Of all of the pictures that I managed to get together to research this project I had clear views of the left side, left-front, front and right-front of the tank, but lacked any clear pictures of the right profile and rear aspect of the AFV, so am slightly concerned that my representation may not quite hit the mark, but I tried my best to show what I thought the tank would have looked like after some use in the field.
It is not even know exactly how many Ostwinds were produced, however, it is known that there was one specific prototype with a soft-steel ‘Keksdose’ turret. The German word Kesdose means ‘biscuit tin’; no doubt a familiar term of reference to its capacious and angular accommodation (the turret was larger than the Wirbelwind as the gun was bigger than the Flakvierling of the SdKfz 161/4, especially with the large spent shell basket, which had to be reduced in size to fit inside the turret in any case).
Produced at the same factory as the Wirbelwind the hull used for the Ostwind prototype is a conversion of the Panzer IV Ausf G hull, number 83898 (which was originally built by Krupp-Grusonwerk in May 1943). I have sought most of my references from the excellent Nuts & Bolts No 13 (Flakpanzer IV Wirbelwind & Ostwind) book and Spielberger’s Panzer IV dictionary. There is a fantastic close-up picture of this particular vehicle at the testing ground with one particular character jauntily surmounting the front hull with an exceptionally cheesy grin, leaning on the FlaK barrel; this character is named as Lt von Seherr-Thoss in Nuts & Bolts, who is alleged to give some of the Ostwind’s story (and in fact says that about 40 Ostwinds were eventually to go into active service before the end of the war, some sources quote this figure to be as low as only seven).
The prototype Ostwind Flakpanzer IV mounted one 3.7cm FlaK 43 gun (the same FlaK gun as used on the Möbelwagen). It had a crew of five and shared many of the technical specifications of the Panzer IV. The prototype showed some failings, consequently adjustments were made in the production Ostwind to include forward positioning of the turret ring to allow opening of the engine hatches (the Wirbelwind turret also experienced problems with this, as the hatches could only be opened when the turret was in the 9 o’clock position). Because the production Ostwind turret ring was moved forward the radio operators hatch also had to be brought towards the front of the AFV in line with the drivers hatch (this is one of the subtle differences of this tank). Also; for the production Ostwind the dedicated chassis was that of a late Panzer IV Ausf J with Flamentoter exhausts, front lifting loops (rather than hooks) and three return rollers, which differs from this example. One other difference between the prototype Ostwind and the production example is that the inferior aspect of the front two lower turret facets had an angulated appearance to reduce the risk of a shot trap at the turret ring, much like the chin of the Panther gun mantlet, reducing the risk of small arms fire penetrating either the upper hull or turret skin and reducing the risk of shot fouling the turret ring mechanism.
The main items used for this project were:
* FlaK gun and turret from the 1:35 Italeri Ostwind kit (ref 376)
* Hull from the Dragon Smart Kit Panzer IV Ausf F2(G) (ref 6360)
* Eduard photo-etch set for Ostwind (ref 35472)
* Cavalier Generic Panzer IV-style Zimmerit
* RB Models FlaK 43 aluminium & brass barrel
I understand that the production variant is soon to be released by Trumpeter and the prototypical version will be released by Dragon, but this pre-Smart Kit model, based on a Panzer IV Ausf F2/G chassis needed a bit of kit bashing. The chassis was covered in typical ridge-pattern Zimmerit and had the typical Ausf G running gear and tracks. The turret is a 12-faced 6-sided over-sized ‘biscuit tin’, which accommodates three crew and the 37mm FlaK 43 as formerly used by a Möbelwagen. This prototype Ostwind had the same sized turret ring as a normal Panzer IV (I found that the aperture had to be widened minimally by rotating a needle file within the radius of the turret ring and the Italeri turret ring had to be padded with thin strip-styrene to accommodate the marriage of the two parts and hide the join). The Ostwind reference photographs shown in Nuts & Bolts are allegedly at the time of its prototype test firing around 27 July 1944 at Kühlungsborn on the Baltic Sea after its assembly at Ostbau-Sagan (production of the Ostwind was moved to Teplitz-Schönau in Jaunuary 1945 due to the advancement of the war and adverse circumstances the factory found itself facing). This provenance was provided by Lt Graf von Seherr-Thoss as described both by Nuts & Bolts and the succinct information provided in Panzer Tracts 12 dedicated to Flak Selbstfahrlafetten and Flakpanzer. Apparently the development of the Ostwind prototype took only two months and was completed at the same time as the fifth Wirbelwind rolled of the production line; I took three weeks to build my model, let alone paint it!
I usually start most builds with the running gear of the hull, but with this build I was so worried by the poor quality of the Italeri Ostwind kit that I thought I should spend all of my early efforts on construction of the turret and gun. The Eduard photo-etch and RB Models barrel certainly do go a fair way to making this part of the model more presentable, but if I attempt this project again I think that I will use an alternative FlaK gun, maybe even sourcing the current Lion Roar FlaK 43 and making it fit the brief.
The ‘Keksdose’ turret provided by the Italeri kit is probably the best part of that kit. I must admit to being a great spares hoarder, but the unused hull and running gear was thrown away due to exceptionally poor quality, the only two pieces being retained were the right side fender box (which was upgraded in any case) and the antenna mount, which was also upgraded with some scratch-built boxing.
Most of the hull was a typical Dragon Smart Kit build, but had a couple of ‘twists’ including the addition of generic Cavalier Zimmerit following the pattern noted on the close-up pictures in Nuts & Bolts and substitution of all tool clasps with Eduard photo-etch in the upgrade kit dedicated to the Italeri kit. The mounting for the right sided antenna and cradle had to be removed/filled and filed flush as this ‘later’ Panzer IV variant has the antenna placed on a rubber mount at the left rear of the AFV in the same position as a Panzer IV Ausf H.
Once the three sections of the Panzer were completed with Zimmerit, photo-etch and various aftermarket goodies the kitbash was a resounding success.
In brief the model was primed firstly with Halfords Grey Plastic Primer then re-primed in Tamiya NATO Black. Following this I used Tamiya Dark Yellow as the basecoat, then Lifecolor Rotbraun/Schokoladen Braun and Lifecolor Olive Grün for the camouflage colours (each were darkened centrally with a mixture of Lifecolor Black and the secondary camouflage colour). The kit was washed with a mixture of Burnt Umber oil paint and black dry-brushed with Humbrol 33 Matt Black. A generous application of MIG Pigments topped off the painting process.
This Ostwind was built back-to-back with my recent Tamiya Wirbelwind upgrade project; whilst the hull seemed to surpass Tamiya’s quality, the Dragon ‘Smart’ technology seemed a bit over-scale in one or two areas, but this was ameliorated by judicious use of photo-etch and careful observation of the original reference photographs. In the raw, primed and painted – I was extremely pleased with the outcome of this Panzer IV variant…now to think about another.
Build completed in June 2009
Thursday, 1 April 2010