Mirage 1/400 U-804 Type IX/c40
|SEK 120.00 (@$15USD)|
Between 4 December 1943 and 30 June 1944 she served with the 4. Flottille as a training boat. On 16 June she was attacked by a Norwegian Mosquito aircraft (of Sqdn 333/R); the Flak crew of the U-boat managed to shoot down the plane but not until after it had wounded eight men. The aircrew survived and two days later they were picked up by U 1000 and taken to Norway for questioning.
On 1 July, 1944 U 804 joined the 10. Flottille and sailed on her first war patrol as a front boat. Then on 1 October, 1944 she was transferred to the 33. Flottille. Her success in hunting enemy ships was limited, though, during her entire career she only managed to sink one vessel for a total of 1,300 tons.
Nearing the end of the war, on 9 April 1945, her luck ran out. While en route from Norway to Kiel, U 804 and U 1065 (a type VII C/41 U-boat) were attacked by 13 British Mosquito aircraft (of Sqdn 143, 235 and 248). The British aircraft fired several volleys of rockets that hit and blew up both U-boats, killing their entire crews. One Mosquito (DZ592) crashed during the attack, probably after being hit by flying debris.
The U 804 was a large ocean-going type IXC/40 U-boat with a surface displacement of 1,144 tons. Being just over 76 meters long she carried a crew of about 60 men.
Her two turbo supercharged MAN 9-cylinder diesels (these were huge beasts, each engine sporting a swept cylinder volume of 520 liters!) had a nominal power rating of 2,200 hp at 470 rpm but could be overloaded to 2,470 hp for about half an hour, enabling a top speed of more than 18 knots on the surface. When cruising at 10 knots the surface range was an impressive 13,850 nautical miles. Max diving depth was around 230-250 meters and the two SSW electric motors provided a top speed of 7 knots when submerged, cruising range underwater was 128 nautical miles at two knots.
Main armaments were the standard G7a, G7e and G7s torpedoes, the latter being the famous Zaunköning acoustic anti-escort homing torpedoe, all fired through four bow and two aft torpedo tubes. Normally a total of 18 torpedoes were carried, one reload for each torpedo tube below deck and two extra torpedoes in stowage tubes at the rear base of the conning tower. A further four reserve torpedoes were carried in water-tight containers below the aft decking.
The antiaircraft armament was quite extensive, consisting of one 37mm M42 autocannon on the lower Wintergarten and two twin 20mm FlaK 38 autocannons on the upper platform. Usually about 3,050 37mm rounds and 10,750 20mm rounds were carried. No deck gun was fitted in order to minimize underwater drag.
The type IX C/40 U-boats featured a few modernizations as compared to earlier variants, the most prominent features being the retractable Schnorkel mast fitted in front of the conning tower and the cut-back of the forward deck. The Schnorkel enabled the U-boat to run its diesel engines when submerged just below the surface, thereby minimizing the risk of detection when cruising or charging the batteries. U 804 was equipped with the older Schnorchelausführung 1 with external air intake pipe running along the side of the command tower. As this pipe was easily damaged by heavy waves and hence leaked at the connection flange during snorkeling it was later replaced in production by the Schnorchelausführung 2 without external ducting.
The cutback of the forward deck was done in order to minimize the time needed for an emergency dive, as the older full-width deck had a tendency to trap air.
Mirage has released a range of different German U-boat kits in 1/400th scale lately, both the well-known type II and VII as well as the larger ocean-going type IX. This is really great as model kits of especially the type IX U-boats are very rare (in any scale).
This kit (Mirage No. 40044) is molded in a light gray styrene, detailing is impressive and mayhaps just a tad soft. No flash and only a few minor sink marks were present on my example. When looking at the parts on the sprues you almost get the impression of an early DML / Dragon kit. Some of the tiniest parts are a bit too thick, especially the propellers and the gun shields. This really is just a nitpick as I guess it would be quite hard to mold the details any better due to the small scale. Oh well, I guess it is time to bring out the knife and sanding paper (or if you prefer to “cheat” and replace the small kit parts with photoetched bits)!
Decals are supplied for three boats, U 803, U 804 and U 805.
The instructions are written in Polish with some minor English translations but this really is not a problem as the construction drawings are pretty clear and easy to follow.
Painting instructions are a bit vague, though, I recommend using external references for the specific U-boat you are modeling.
I intended to build this kit “somewhat” out of the box, only improving the kit supplied parts and adding some extra detailing by scratch building.
Construction began by cementing the two hull halves together. No locating tabs are provided but fit is good. The upper deck is a bit more tricky as there is a quite prominent “step” between the uppermost part of the hull side and the deck itself; this step will have to be filled with putty and then sanded smooth.
The small details on the hull below the waterline are next. The bow hydroplanes are a bit too thick so these were scraped with a knife for a more realistic thickness. Fit is a bit mediocre here as the rear mounting lugs on the planes don’t match up with the holes provided in the hull. I filled the hull holes with putty, sanded the area smooth and then just cemented the hydroplanes flush with the hull (after cutting off the mounting lugs) using the front support arm as a guide. The result was quite satisfactory.
The anchor is way too sturdy in appearance looking more like some sort of toy than anything else. I sanded it down quite extensively to give it a more realistic thickness, the centre leg was cut off and the “horns” were reshaped to make them more pronounced (scraping away material at the base and sharpening the tips).
Moving aft you are challenged with the construction of the rudder / propeller arrangement. Actually, this is a rather simple affair if you work slowly and let the glue set before moving on to the next step. A few good location diagrams are also provided, these are quite helpful.
If you build the aft assembly “out-of-the-box” you will end up with a reasonable good and complicated looking rudder / propeller arrangement; however, with a little extra work you can make it near perfect and very realistic looking, this requires just some puttying and relocation of parts (to improve fit). Almost everything needs to be thinned down a bit too as the small parts in this area are all a bit too thick and sturdy looking.
The biggest joke are the propellers themselves, they look more like, well I don’t know, mayhaps flowers or something rather than small delicate uboat propellers. The general shape is ok but the thickness of the blades is ridiculous. You should either replace these items with new scratchbuilt items or thin down the kit supplied parts. I chose the latter, scraping the blades extensively with a sharp knife until their thickness became somewhat more realistic. It is actually pretty easy work but you need to work slowly and carefully as it is very easy to snap the blades.
I left the finished propellers off the model for now as it will be easier to paint them that way.
If you have followed the location diagrams for the aft rudder assembly the propeller shafts will fit nicely with no problem at all. When they are cemented in place they will significantly stiffen up the entire aft assembly.
Leaving the hull almost completed it was time for the second main assembly of the kit, the command tower. This boat has the Turmumbau IV, the improved version with an extra lower Wintergarten gun platform in addition to the extended upper one.
Fit of the tower parts are quite good, a little sanding here and there but nothing drastic really. No locating tabs are provided for the two tower halves so make sure you get them aligned.
The guns are all a bit too sturdy looking (now, have I written that before?). Everything was sanded and thinned down to get the parts at least somewhat more to realistic scale thickness. The gun shield for the 37-mm autocannon was replaced by a small piece of paper bent into shape.
In hindsight I think the gun barrels (both 37 and 20-mm) should have been replaced by stretched sprue or metal thread, this would indeed enhance their appearance.
After cementing the guns in place I realized that the command tower looked pretty “naked” and simple. So after some serious hesitation I decided to add scratchbuilt railings made from thin pieces of stretched sprue.
I made small locating cuts in the platform edges of the tower and then cemented the small vertical rods of the railing in place. When these were fixed and the glue had cured I then added the horizontal rods, these were also made from small pieces of stretched sprue.
It took quite some time to complete both Wintergartens with the added railings but when done the tower certainly look so much more realistic and “complete”.
The Schnorkel was cemented in place on the deck (you can only have it in the raised position or be prepared for some serious cutting and scratch building of the upper hull deck…) and the associated air intake pipe was glued to the side of the command tower. Note that the spray deflector on the starboard tower side will need to be removed in order to have the air duct line up with the connection on the Schnorkel mast.
The two periscopes were trimmed and cemented in place. I chose not to attach the various antennas, though.
Finally the entire command tower assembly was cemented in place on the deck.
For a completely accurate look you should also add the hull railing, preferably by using stretched sprue and the same technique as for the command tower Wintergarten railings. I chickened out on this one, though. Mayhap on the next boat!
CAMOUFLAGE & MARKINGS
Most of the late-war type IXC/40 uboats were painted light grey on the upper hull and command tower, with a darker, almost black, grey colour below the waterline. Some uboats differed by instead having a dark red underwater hull.
I began by painting the entire hull below the waterline in Humbrol 79, a dark grey colour. When dry the waterline was masked and the upper hull and tower was painted Humbrol 145 light grey. This was followed by a a sprayed-on coat of clear semigloss varnish in order to prepare the model for the weathering phase.
A black wash was added to the deck and tower, in some places I let the wash remain a bit longer before wiping it off in order to get a slight discolouration of the light grey. After this I added patches of rust here and there (both above and below the waterline) and then quickly wiped off most of the paint. This gave a nice rust-red hint to the otherwise pretty uniform and “boring” paint scheme. Small dots and streaks of rust were also added to the command tower and upper hull, and especially around the free-flooding holes in the sides.
Finally I added a subtle drybrush with very light grey to pick out and accentuate some of the detailing on the uboat. Flat clear varnish was then sprayed on in order to seal everything.
Now it was time for the finishing touches. Antennas made from thin black stretched sprue were added, as were the propellers. I painted the propellers silver instead of the usual brass; late in the war most of the German uboats had propellers made from steel rather than brass due to shortage of raw materials.
The stand for the model was spray-painted gold.
Well, there you have it. One quite interesting little model. Completed it is less than eight inches long so it definitely won’t take up a lot of shelf space!
Mirage has done a good job with this kit. With just a little bit of extra work and scratchbuilding it can be turned into a very nice model.
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