Obsessions are powerful things, and generally, they tend to lead to negative, or at least suboptimal, outcomes for the person, people or organization obsessed. Wartime Germany, replete with political infighting and empire building that would make a Caesar blush, had a tendency to be fixated on, and obsessed with, numerous ideas. This went far beyond political ideas, and I don’t want to spiral down that road anyway. However, they also tended to get obsessed with key military ideas or concepts, usually taking them too far or holding them too dear to be useful in the long term.
Perfect examples of this are the RLM’s fixation on the “Zerstoerer” (heavy fighter) class of aircraft and dive-bombing. Even after the pedestrian (at best) performance of the Bf-110 in the Battle of Britain, the RLM continued to advocate for newer, better Zerstoerer craft, including those using mixed and jet propulsion. As for dive bombing, it was the operational version of Frank’s Red Hot – the RLM put that S#!t on EVERYTHING. I mean, who else wanted their strategic bombers to dive-bomb? Ever see a B-29 or B-17 dive-bomb? There’s a reason for that. It’s not fair, though, to just throw the prize for “Most Obsessive Service” to the RLM and Luftwaffe without considering the other German ministries and armed forces. The Kriegsmarine (Navy) had their share of hang-ups, too…
One of the things that the German Navy was big on was midget subs. Given Germany’s lead in U-Boat technology and employment, it’s no surprise that the High Command was keen to evolve that capability in all directions. From the giant Type XXI ocean-going killers to their little “brown water brothers” the Type XXIII, German submarine interests covered quite the range of machines. Midget craft, though, were a particular obsession, it seems. And, like so many others, the vast quantities of designs trialled and produced didn’t quite add up to results that bore out the effort expended.
There were a large range of micro and midget sub projects in Germany, everything from the Neger (a manned torpedo, carrying an unmanned torpedo under it) and its derivatives to the Molch, Biber, Hecht and finally Seehund (true midget submarines). However, unlike the successful two-man submersibles employed by other forces, the German ones just couldn’t seem to get it right, and most of them were at best useless, and at worst more likely to kill their crew than do any damage to the Allies. Given that these midget subs smack of the same air of desperation conjoined with fantastic imagination that many “final day” aeronautical projects had, it’s not a surprise that that there are kits of most (if not all) of the German midget subs.
Arguably, the most successful of this class of vehicle for the Kriegsmarine were the Seehund (literally “sea dog”, but meaning “seal”) submarines. Despite typically grandiose plans of building 1000 right off the bat, only around 280-285 were completed between July, 1944 and the end of the war in Europe. The Seehund is a two-man submersible, and unlike so many other German midgets, it carries both a diesel engine and batteries for electric cruising while submerged. Like many other German midgets, the armament consists of two torpedoes, in this case G7e units, carried on pylons in a semi-recessed fashion on the lower hull.
Because of the twin power plants and better design, the Seehund was able to do about 5.5 knots on the surface and almost 7 knots underwater. It was also good down a depth of nearly 150 feet, far deeper than it was ever expected to operate. During their short careers, the Seehunds deployed accounted for around 8 ships and approximately 90,000 gross tonnes, according to Wikipedia. Midget subs aren’t something I have a lot of data on, so I have to assume that’s correct. What’s even more amazing is that some of these actually served after the war, including four that were in service with France until 1953!
It’s understandable that midget subs are not something as likely to draw in casual builders in the same way that a ’57 Chevy or an F-14 might. However, that hasn’t stopped some major companies including Italeri and Hobby Boss from jumping on the midget sub bandwagon. Throwing their hat into the ring with the Seehund is (allegedly) Revell Germany. However, like a lot of other WWII German oddities, this Revell kit is actually sourced from ICM, just like the very nice G4 staff car. So, shall we take a look at the Seehund in all its reboxed glory?
The box is a typical Revell Germany box for a naval subject. In other words, it’s a bluish green-grey colour with lighter pinstripes highlighting it. The bulk of the front of the box is a piece of art that shows a Seehund on the prowl. The sub is trailing multiple streams of bubbles as it negotiates a minefield, its single prop (now running on electrical power) nearly silently swirling, pushing it purposefully onwards. At first, it’s a neat picture, if not overly dynamic. Again, it’s not Matchbox box art, but it is pretty cool upon further inspection.
One feature of the art that is particularly well done is the shading and tonal variations in the water. Underwater imagery has always fascinated me, and this one is no exception The faint streaming rays of sunshine that serve to “backlight” the sub are very nicely done, and the threateningly alien shapes of the mines serve to highlight the unnaturalness of it all. There are even a few schools of fish in the background, further highlighting the invasion by man of this usually silent realm. The fact that the Seehund is a bit clunky looking and primitive with its heavy welds and slapdash cammo only reinforces the feeling of the crew, and vehicle, being somewhat out of their element, even if they are actually in it.
The rest of the box gives the scale, subject and Revell logo at the top left. My favourite part is that in the lower left corner, in various languages, is the statement “Illustration of a ship”. No kidding. I know they mean to say that it’s art, and not a picture of a finished model, but it’s just so obviously matter-of-fact that I find it comedic. Seriously? I thought it was a pair of mittens. I was disappointed when I couldn’t put them on to shovel the driveway… I think a slightly better wording would have helped, but then I wouldn’t have had so much fun!
On one side of the box are a few small pictures of parts of the finished kit, while on the other is a multilingual writeup. Even with my excellent eyesight, however, I find it so tiny as to be almost impossible to read. One thing that did amaze me was that they said some missions could last SEVEN DAYS!!! What the… 7 days trapped in a sardine can with only one other person? Say what you want about WWII Germany; that takes some serious cajones. Sadly, the back of the box pulls the old Revell Germany trick of showing you NOTHING. I don’t know why Revell did this; I think they’ve changed it on newer models, but most of us do like to see a few pics of a completed kit, and the back, if you’re going to use it, is a great place for that. I know I prefer that to cross sells of products I don’t intend to use. The box is a typical end opening affair, and is of average strength. I do so hate end-opening boxes, but I’ve saved a nice Heller box bottom, so I can put all the pieces in there when I work on this kit.
Anyone who has built a sub kit knows that they are NOT the value-leaders in the modelling world. Unlike Mobile Suits, where you really get a lot for your money, I’m almost always a bit deflated when I open a sub kit. There is, as expected, not much in the box. In fact, there’s a single grey sprue of plastic, an instruction book and a very small, limited decal sheet. This is seemingly at odds with the Skill Rating 4 on the box. I have to admit, looking at it I’m thinking it’s likely a 3 at most, but the 4 does make me a bit nervous; it’s always the ones you least expect.
The first clue that this isn’t a native Revell release comes around the sprue. Normally, Revell kits are in shrink-wrapped (shrunk-wrap?) bags of the kind requiring a knife or scissors to open, and which is not resealable. However, the Seehund comes in an Oker Brand resealable bag, which is (re)sealed with an adhesive strip, like a giant Post-It Note! This is something you often see on short run kits, like Swords or Special Hobby kits. As I mentioned before, this is really an ICM kit, and the bag shows it. Of course, the ICM logo on the sprue also helps! I do find it interesting that nowhere that I looked on the box or instructions could I find any reference to ICM. I expected it would be like the Italeri/Bilek offerings, where the actual maker of the kit might get some love. Nope.
On the single sprue of grey plastic are all the pieces you need to build a Seehund in 1/72. This includes hull halves, torpedo halves and a few parts for the conning tower. Unlike on the 1/35 Biber, there’s no interior detail that will show and so none is given. The parts all look nicely moulded, and while there’s not a massive amount of detail, the raised welds on the Seehund’s patchwork hide do look nice, and in scale! There’s no real flash, but the edges of the moulds give the impression they’ll meet at a peak that will need sanding or scraping to get the right shape out of them.
The propellers for both the torpedoes and the sub itself look quite delicate and I’m not looking forward to cutting them off the rack. Razor saws are likely the best bet for this, as even the sharpest cutters will likely put unacceptable stresses on the parts. There’s a no-nonsense single-piece stand, too, that isn’t that impressive, but will likely do the job just fine.
Like all short-run kits, the ICM/Revell Seehund is devoid of locating pins on the major subassemblies. The main hull and torpedo halves will thus have to be aligned with a “Mk.II Eyeball” with sanding sticks to make up the difference. Likewise, the placement of external details like the saddle tanks will likely cause a problem, or at least be a bit vexing. One thing that I do find annoying is that there is no clear glass dome for the conning tower. On both the ICM and Revell boxes, it is clear that there is a glass dome for the pilot. This is NOT in the kit. It’s not in the ICM either. In its place is a raised, but solid, plastic bump.
That is cheap. Maybe it’s beyond ICM’s ability to do this in clear plastic (I doubt it is) but Revell could have stepped up and given us a glass piece to make their direct reboxing something just a little bit more than the original. But no, that’s not happening. At first, I thought I’d lost the dome, or my kit didn’t come with it. I was equally gladdened and saddened to find that it was never there in the first place. So, just be aware of that. At least the Italeri Biber had glass where it needed it…
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions are typical Revell Germany. They are clear and detailed enough that there should be no problems (I hope) in putting this little machine together. The last page of the instructions is a black and white paint plan for the two marking options. One is in a darker grey than the other. That’s it. It’s a sub, though, so you’re not going in expecting a smorgasbord of colour schemes.
One interesting thing is that there are a couple of parts that aren’t used in this kit. As I found out looking up the ICM kit, the early Seehunds had ducted props, but the later ones didn’t. That means this is a “late model” Seehund, but you could build it as an early one if you wanted to. Does this make up for the lack of clear dome? To me, it doesn’t but it does help a bit…
The decals consist of four numbers (two per option) and a few white lines. As with all Revell decals, they are matte finished. This means they’ll be unnecessarily difficult to work with and prone to silvering, like all Revell Germany decals. They’ll go on well, but you’ll have to soak them over and under with Future to get them to not show up when you’re done.
The Seehund is an interesting piece of history, and it’s a cool-looking boat to boot. In 1/72, it’s just over 6” long, so it’s not going to take up a lot of space (unlike the 1/35 Molch, but that’s a different story…). It is a great canvas for aging and trying out all kinds of cool effects, and for that I think a lot of ship builders would like this kit.
It’s also a fairly simple kit, so even someone who’s not that experienced should be able to handle it. That being said, the lack of alignment pins and the threat of dodgy fit is ever-present in a short run kit like this, so don’t say I didn’t at least warn you to some degree. Also, some of the parts will need considerable care to get them off the rack intact. For that reason, this would make a good project to tackle with a younger modeller; you can teach the newer hobbyist the right ways to carefully remove parts without drowning them IN said parts.
While expensive for what you seem to get, the Seehund is a kit I’m glad I have in my stash. I do like that it’s in aircraft scale, vs. armour scale, and am looking forward to building it whenever I get around to it. If you’re a fan of wacky German engineering, desperation weapons or submarines, it’s definitely a good one to add to your collection!