The idea of assault guns appeared for the first time during WWI. In March and April of 1918 during great Ludendorff’s offensive, the German army broke the Allies defenses, but strategic victory was not achieved due to problems with supplies. This brief victory was mostly the merit of elite Sturm Troops (Stosstruppen) – these small units were equipped with machine guns, machine pistols, light mortars and flamethrowers and often supported by assault artillery batteries. Artilleryman, most often equipped with captured Russian 76.2mm light guns, moved forward in the first line along with attacking infantry, using their guns to destroy machine gun nests and other fortifications. Artilleryman had to tow their guns through cratered fields suffering heavy losses but they still were much more effective than long-lasting indirect artillery fire.
Right after WWI, great focus was directed on creating mobile artillery support for infantry. Great Britain created a so called infantry tank (i.e. Matilda Mk II), but Erich von Manstein suggested another solution: a heavily armored vehicle, which being less effective than a typical tank (having no turret), would be much cheaper and easier to produce and still give the required fire support for attacking infantry. In 1936 the German Inspectorate of Artillery prepared several requirements that the new vehicle had to meet:
•It should be armed with a 75mm (at least) gun with a range up to 6km, and be able to destroy existing vehicles within 500m.
•Closed or with opened combat compartment with stationary upper hull.
•Having a maximum height of 2m.
•Adjusted to existing tank chassis for development cost and time reduction.
Daimler-Benz A.G. was ordered to modify the chassis of the PzKpfw III, already being produced by them, to heavier armor. At the same time, Krupp’s plant in Essen which produced the 7.5cm KwK37 L/24 gun for the PzKpfw IV, was ordered to adapt this gun to a new version 7.5cm StuK L/24 for the new vehicle. This whole project was named Pz.Sfl. III (s.PaK) (armored, self propelled heavy anti-tank gun, version III).
In 1937, Daimler-Benz A.G. built 5 prototype assault guns of Null-Serie. Tests run on these prototypes showed several problems with the gearbox and suspension, but this knowledge helped in preparation of the vehicle to serial production. The first Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.A left the production line in January 1940. Sturmgeschütz III serie (including versions A-G) numbered about 9400 vehicles. The main difference between Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.F and earlier versions (beside changes implemented between previous versions such as wider tracks, small upper hull changes, additional MG34 and second radio) was the long barrel 75 mm StuK 40 L/43. From this version StuGs were also used as tank destroyers. 359 1 prototype StuGs Ausf.F were produced, including late models (31 vehicles) with the longer L/48 gun. It was produced between March of 1942 and September 1942. The Ausf F was then replaced by the Ausf F/8 armed exclusively with L/48 gun.
This kit comes in the Cyber-Hobby Orange Box, with the cover showing the left side of the vehicle in StuG.Abt.191 Eastern Front paint scheme and markings, along with a small picture of Sturmgeschütze Crew Reloading (Russia 1941) figure kit which is included in the box.
Inside the box one can find assembly and painting instruction, 6 sprues with parts packed in plastic bags, lower hull, two photo etched sheets, and two bags with MagicTracks.
Included in the kit are the following:
•1xA sprue=upper hull body, tools.
•2xB sprue=mainly wheels and suspension details, few upper hull elements.
•1xC sprue=more upper hull parts, many parts from this sprue are spares.
•1xD sprue=lower hull.
•1xE sprue=upper hull and gun parts.
•MA fret=photo etched covers (from Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B (Sd.Kfz.142) Dragon 6008 kit).
•MB fret=photo etched rear support element and support brackets.
•MagicTrack track parts in two shades of gray (Rx72 and Lx72).
•Sturmgeschütze Crew Reloading figures sprue (Dragon 6192 kit).
Most of the included parts are from the Dragon 6033 StuG III Ausf F kit. The DML logo was removed from some sprues, but is still visible on A sprue, PE sheets and figures sprue. The kit contains over 440 pieces.
The parts are made of good quality, grey styrene. Details are nicely sculpted, though some are a little simplified in areas such as some of the welds. Surfaces are clean, smooth and no flaws were found. Flash was not observed and seam lines on the parts are placed mostly on hard edges leaving no visible marks on the outer surfaces. Ejector pin marks are delicate and placed mostly on areas that will be not visible after assembly.
A few of the more fragile parts seem to be attached very close to the sprue, so extreme caution and precision may be required during cutting. Unfortunately the barrel is once again in two lateral plastic pieces, which means a seam will need to be addressed.
Tracks are delivered as separate links using Dragon’s MagicTracks, this time with left and right links which are easy to recognize because different shades of gray are used.
In comparison with pictures of existing vehicles no significant error was found on the vehicle parts.
Assembly and Painting:
The assembly instructions are printed in color on glossy paper consisting of 19 steps. Since the StuG III versions differed in minor details, the kit was obviously designed to cover more than just the Ausf.F version, as the instructions show many parts that have to be delicately modified to match the F version (some details must be removed and some holes must be filled, so prepare for a lot of sanding even if fit problems are not present). No errors in the instruction were found after two readings.
Decals are available for two painting and marking schemes - StuG.Abt.191, Eastern Front 1942 and StuG.Abt.201, Eastern Front 1942. Both versions are shown on the last page of instructions, though they are printed in grey/blue/black scheme and not in real colors which is sort of strange since the assembly instruction is printed in color. One of the suggested paint schemes is in Eastern Front typical yellow base/green lines camouflage scheme, second one is in base dark yellow color.
Assembly and painting instruction for figures are printed on the last page as well.
Sturmgeschütze Crew Reloading figure kit allows building four StuG crew members in Sturmgeschütz crew uniforms (except for the commander wearing field-grey sweater). The kit allows choosing between early-war Schiffchen side caps and Feldmütze caps for the crewmen. The sprue contains 4 torsos, 8 arms, 8 legs, 8 heads (depending on chosen type of cap), 4 Schifchen caps, 4 Feldmütze caps, 12 pieces of ammo in 3 types (4pcs each). Delicate and easy to remove seam lines are visible on figure parts on usual places (torso sides, arms and legs and on heads on the neck-jaw-ear line). Some delicate imperfections (lines) are present on the torsos. No difference in texture between uniform jackets and sweater is visible.
The StuG commander stands with his hands on hips, looking left and supervising the reload operation. The second soldier stands with a projectile in his hands looking up at his colleague who is standing on the vehicle, waiting for him to take the shell from him. Third soldier passes the projectile to the soldier standing on the vehicle. Fourth soldier stands on higher level and stoops to take the projectile from his colleague standing on the ground. You can find a review of the figure kit on Armorama HERE
Cyber-Hobby once again proves that it is possible to offer a very decent model kit for a good price. What you get for about $30 USD is diorama-ready kit showing a great vehicle with its crew at work. MagicTracks and a few PE parts allow additional detailing.
Delicate flaws and simplifications are present, but they are not visible and significant enough to destroy the overall look of a nice and clean kit. This kit is not as detailed as recent DML kits, but is worth its price and may be a very good first choice for a StuG collection.