Wednesday, February 1, 2012
German Self-Propelled Guns
The German Army, in its attempt to neutralize the ever-increasing numbers of enemy tanks and their sometimes superior armor, developed many varieties of anti-tank guns. This was essentially an arms race against the allied tanks that continued up to the end of the war. Mounting the guns in an armored vehicle gave them greater mobility and increased the protection of their crews. The main difference between a tank and a self-propelled gun is the lack of a turret in the latter, which made them cheaper and faster to manufacture, allowing them to be produced in greater numbers. Self-propelled guns usually had a very limited traversal range so to turn one towards its target often the whole vehicle had to be turned. Alternatively, the vehicle could lie in waiting, usually well cammouflaged, until an enemy target crossed its sights. Model manufacturers have taken advantage of the large number of self-propelled guns that were produced to give us a wealth of scale models as you can appreciate below.
21st Century Toys Sturmpanzer Brummbar Sd Kfz 166
Also known as Strumpanzer 43 or Stupa. This vehicle was designed as mobile artillery in support of infantry troops. It was built on top of the Panzer IV chassis, and mounted a 150mm gun. The side skirts were standard equipment. It was produced between 1943 and 1945. It saw action in the Eastern Front, Italy and Normandy. Later versions also had Zimmerit applied to them. This version from 21C Toys is original, but a bit brittle. The side skirt attachments were all broken when I purchased it (from a fellow collector). Also it is all plastic and the tank's surface is too smooth. The FOV tanks feel a little more rugged. Nonetheless, its uniqueness makes it a worthwhile vehicle to collect.
Forces of Valor Elefant Sd Kfz 184
Also known as Ferdinand or Panzerjäger Tiger, this was a heavy tank destroyer built on top of the Tiger chassis which had originally been designed and built by Porsche for the Tiger I Tank. After the Henschel design was chosen for the Tiger, the Porsche chassis were repurposed as tank destroyers with an 88 mm Pak 43 anti tank gun capable of destroying a T-34 at a 3 mile range. 91 of them were produced in 1943 in time for the offensive at Kursk. After some slight modifications to make it less vulnerable to close infantry attacks, Elefant was adopted as its official name. Its strong armor and powerful gun gave it a kill ratio of over 10 to 1, making it perhaps the most prolific tank destroyer of the war, but its weight and mechanical problems reduced its mobility and operational effectiveness. The fact that it was manufactured in such small numbers also meant that there were few spare parts. Most of them had to be abandoned if they broke down or suffered damage as they were difficult to tow by the recovery teams. This version from FOV is really nice. The Zimmerit cover gives is a very realistic look. The only thing that I would have liked would have been 1 or 2 crew figues to go with it and make it come to life a bit more.
Forces of Valor Jagdpanther Sd Kfz 173 - Normandy 1944
The Jagdpanther was built during 1944 and 1945. It mounted a 88mm PAK 43 gun on top of the Panther Tank chassis. The Panther chassis was lighter and faster which gave the Jagdpanther greater mobility, and it was also more reliable, which resulted in fewer mechanical breakdowns. Most Jagdpanthers saw action on the Eastern Front, with a few participating in the Normandy campaign. Later in the war, they also participated in the Ardennes offensive. Forces of Valor has given us a couple variations of this tank destroyer. The one depicted here is their Normandy model. It is covered in Zimmerit paint, in the actual square pattern that was applied to the Jagdpanther. They also produced a second model released in a gold/green cammo color scheme.
Forces of Valor Jagdtiger Sd KFz 186- Germany 1945
Also known as Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf. B, this tank destroyer was built on top of the King Tiger chassis. It mounted a 128mm gun and was thickly armored with 10 inches of frontal armor. All this made it the heaviest armored vehicle of World War II at over 70 tons. Its weight however was also its Achilles heel, causing it to frequently breakdown. Also, the weight of the gun required it to be locked for support when not in combat. This also meant that someone had to exit the tank to unluck it before it could fire. Nonetheless, this giant could destroy any allied tank on the battlefield at safe ranges and it was very difficult to destroy in combat, although it was vulnerable to attacks from the air. Approximately 80 of them were built in total, the first ones reaching the front in the fall of '44 and seeing mainly action on the Western Front. Forces of Valor has given us this nice model. Quite heavy and with almost no range of motion for the gun as the original. The support in the front can indeed be used to hold up the gun.
21st Century Toys Sd KFz 186 Jagdtiger
This is another version of the Jagdtiger made by 21C. It is all made of plastic, so it feels a bit light. But in terms of appearance, it is quite reasonably detailed, and certainly more affordable than the FOV version. The only thing I did not like about this one is that it does not hold up the gun very well. If you look closely, I had to prop the crew man against the gun so that it would stay up in place...
21st Century Toys Sd Kfz 138 Ausf M Marder IIIM Tank Destroyer
This was the third tank destroyer in the Marder series. Also known as Panzerjäger 38(t) mit 7.5 cm Pak 40/3, this tank destroyer was built on top of the Panzer 38(t) Ausf M chassis, of Czech origin. This chassis had the engine mounted in the middle, allowing the gun in the back to be installed in a lower position, which reduced the vehicle's profile and afforded the crew slightly better protection. The back was also closed, but the top remained open. That, plus the fact that it was not heavily armored made it a risky business to operate them, particularly under artillery attacks and urban settings. It carried a 75 mm Pak 40 gun and was operated by a crew of 4: driver, gunner, loader/radio man plus a tank commander who was free to direct the battle operations. It was manufactured during '43 and '44 with almost 1000 of them being produced. It was then phased out of production in favor of fully armored tank destroyers, but it fought on until the end of the war, seeing action on most fronts. This model comes to us courtesy of 21C Toys. Despite the fact that it is entirely made out of plastic, it is nicely detailed as you can tell from te rivets.
21st Century Toys Sd Kfz 139 Marder III Tank Destroyer
Also known as the Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62 cm Pak 36(r), this was the first tank destroyer in the Marder series. It was was built on top of the Panzer 38(t) chassis, of Czech origin, and mounted a Soviet 76mm gun which had been captured in large numbers during the early phases of the Soviet campaign. The gun was hosted in a structure that was simply bolted on top of the chassis and it was only lightly armored, which made this vehicle highly vulnerable. The Sd Kfz 139 was manufactured from mid '42 and into 1943. This version of the Marder fought mainly against the Soviet Union, with a few also fighting in North Africa. This Sd Kfz model was also made by 21C Toys. It is also made out of plastic, but like the other Marder, it is nicely detailed, and its gun has a nice range of motion for a tank destroyer.
21st Century Toys Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer Sd Kfz 138/2
The Jagdpanzer 38(t) was yet another variant of a tank destroyer built on top of the Czech Panzer 38(t) chassis. This model however was built with thicker armor and the front sloping at a steeper angle which gave it the equivalent of almost 5 inches of frontal armor. The Hetzer was fully enclosed and had a much lower profile than the Marder III, making it also safer to operate. Its main gun was a 75mm Pak, mounted off-center. This gun was similar to that of the Stug III, capable of destroying most allied tanks. The Hetzer was designed in 1943 and produced as of 1944, at about the same time as as the Jagdpanther and the Jagdtiger, however the Hetzer was cheaper to manufacture. More than 2500 were produced and many survived the war. This Hetzer comes to us courtesy of 21C Toys. I must admit that while it appears to be an accurate representation of the original, I have found it one of their least exciting models. It has almost no moving parts, the surface is lacking in detail and the paint finish is quite dull. And it also seems to be on the smaller side of the 1/32 scale.
Forces of Valor German Sturmgeschütz III Ausf B Sd Kfz 142- Eastern Front 1941
The StuG III was Germany's most popular armored fighting vehicle of the war. Its conceptualization and design began prior to the war, with the first protoypes coming online in 1937. Initially it was intended to be used as mobile artillery in support of infantry against fortifications and soft-skin targets so it was equipped with a low velocity 75mm gun mounted on top of the Panzer III chassis. The Ausf B model, was made from mid '40 to mid '41. The main modifications made to this model were that it came with slightly wider tracks and simplified transmission (from 10 to 6 gears). This model from FOV is a nice representation of the early Stug III when it was still used in an infantry support role during the early war campaigns. Contrary to most FOV vehicles, this one feels lighter, which suggests that more plastic than metal was used to make it.
21st Century Toys Sturmgeschütz III Sd Kfz 142
The StuG III's low profile made it easy to cammouflage and hard to hit. Despite the lack of a traversable turret, Stug III's were more effective at destroying enemy tanks than German tanks. This is also in part due to the defensive role in which it was used, as opposed to the tanks which were also used offensively making them more vulnerable to flanking fire. Beginning in march of '42 with Ausf. F the StuG III was equipped with a 75mm Pak gun, marking its transition to a tank destroyer. It's front armor was also upgraded from 50mm to 80mm. Towards the end of '42 a machine gun shield was also added and retrofitted to existing StuGs. This model from 21st Century Toys probably represents Ausf F. Despite being made entirely of plastic it is a nice model and at the time it was sold for a very good price.
Forces of Valor Stug III Sd Kfz 142 - Italy 1944
The Stug Ausf G was the last StuG variant. It was introduced in Dec '42 and it was produced until almost the end of the war. The most noticeable change, made shortly before the Kursk offensive, was the introduction of the side skirts for extra protection. By the end of the war, close to 9500 StuGs had been produced, with a little less than 8000 being Ausf G. This model was released by FOV. It was labeled as the Italy 1944 model, however its colors suggest that it might have also been in Africa, which is quite possible as the Afrika Korps fought there until mid 1943, half a year after Ausf G had been introduced. In Afrika however it would not have had the side skirts. Speaking of side skirts, look at the level of detail on that shell impact. This model was also released in a 'Battle of the Bulge' version.
Dinky Sd Kfz 251/22 Tank Destroyer
As far as I can tell this is the version of the Sd Kfz 251 that had the 75mm PAK 40 mounted on it. I say that because Dinky only labeled it as a tank destroyer. It is a bit underscale, mabe more like a 1:35 than 1:32 model. But it given its uniqueness, I don't really mind. Since it did not come with a crew of its own, I lend it a couple of FOV guys to operate it, although there's not much room left for them by the mounted gun. Similar to other Dinky artillery pieces, it comes with a spring mechanism that allows it to fire mini projectiles. All in all a nice item to add to the collection.
Click here to see some German Panzergrenadiers in action
Click here to see a post about self-propelled AA guns
Click here to see a post about the dreaded 88s
Click here to see a post about the Pak 40
Click here to see a post about the Jagdtiger in action