The Sturmgeschütz III
(usually shortened to StuG III
even in German) was the most-produced German AFV in World War 2 with over 10,000 built by 1945. Originally intended, like the Panzer IV, as a mechanized infantry-support gun for the evolving concept of Bewegungskrieg
(“mobile warfare,” what came to be known as Blitzkrieg), the StuG III became Germany’s most-successful tank killer after the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, destroying over 20,000 tanks during the war. The low-velocity 75 mm StuK 37 L/24 gun originally fitted to it and intended for attacking soft-skins and fortified strong points, proved inadequate against the heavy armor and longer range guns of the KV-1 and T-34 tanks. It was replaced in the Ausführung
F, first by the longer 7.5mm StuK 40 L/43 (the first major upgrade of the design), and later in June 1942 with the still longer 7.5mm StuK 40 L/48 gun (13 inches longer).
In September of 1942, the Ausf. F/8 variant was introduced, incorporating both an improved hull from the Panzer III Ausf. J / L, along with bolt-on armor that sped up production time. DML has been busy recently with a spate of Panzer III and Sturmgeschütz kits, and the latest is the StuG. III Ausf. F/8. Arriving on the Eastern Front in time for the Winter, it sports the duck-billed Winterketten
tracks adopted because Germany’s narrow-tracked tanks couldn’t handle the dry, powdery snow or the intense ice (Soviet tanks had much-wider tracks that carried them over the snow). The tracks feature both side extensions to increase traction in the snow, and ice cleats mounted on the track facing.
This new StuG. III comes boxed in the usual Smart Kit package illustrated with another very fine Ron Volstad painting, this one showing the vehicle with a rather pathetic, worn Winter whitewash over what looks to be Dunkelgelb
. The base yellow scheme was adopted in February of 1943, long after the Ausf. G had become the current StuG variant, so it seems unlikely an Ausf. F/8 would have a yellow base color unless repainted during a repair stint, or painted in the field by its crew. Both are possible, but less likely or common for the F/8.
The box contains:
14 sprues of the usual gray styrene
A crisply-detailed hull tub
2 sprues of clear parts for vision ports
A length of wire for the tow cable
1 fret of PE plus
A pre-formed cage to cover the gun sight
Right- and left-handed Magic Tracks with extensions
A bag of ice cleats
I’m glad to see Dragon working its way through the various Panzer III
s and StuG IIIs, retooling their molds to bring us more-accurate versions than heretofore. While they’ve done a great job bringing out the later-war kits, the early war versions are just now coming onto the market. In most cases, these variants require new tooling, since German tanks and assault guns tended to get larger and have wider tracks as the war progressed. For example, the StuG III Ausf. G’s hull was 2.95m wide, while the Ausf. F/8 was 2.92m and considerably smaller at the superstructure. While only 334 units were produced (as opposed to the workhorse Ausf. G with over 7,700), it’s an important transitional improvement between the earlier infantry support vehicles and the dedicated tank killer. The StuG was converted to anti-tank duties because the Wehrmacht found itself looking for a quick answer to the Soviet Union’s superior tank design and enormous production capacity. The StuG III was cheap to build and required fewer parts than a turreted tank.
A Smart Kit by definition means some compromises and omissions, yet this kit is anything but simplified, and continues recent trends towards greater basic detailing without resorting to photo etch. For example, all the various hatches and vents are separate parts, and can be modeled open or closed. While I wish DML would include engines to display inside these open-able hatches, even if glued-on, they look superior to molded-on. A bonus for this kit is a basic interior not included in the Ausf. G kit #6320 with a radio set, machine pistols mounted to the walls for the pistol ports, the complete gun cradle, seats, and a set of “scissors binoculars” with mounting bracket. The commander could use them to see out his hatch without exposing himself to small arms fire.
The interior isn't perfect (the ammo storage racks are missing), but it's a good start, and probably will please most modelers who choose to keep the loader’s or commander’s hatches open. Other details are a length of metal wire for the tow cables and a pre-formed photo etch protective cage for the gun sight (a styrene version is also included for less-adventurous modelers). If you’re nervous about trying PE, here’s your chance to dip your toes in the water.
The key to properly rendering the various StuG IIIs is the dimensions of the superstructure. Instead of reusing old sprues, Dragon has wisely retooled the superstructure sprue (R) and used the more-narrow dimensions of the Ausf. F/8. Comparing it to an Ausf. G Early Production (kit #6320) in my stash, the width is significantly narrower. The road wheels, idler wheels and drive sprockets all continue the same fine detailing from that kit (they use the same sprues), including the support rods used to strengthen the paired road wheels. The mesh covering the engine ducts is diamond-shaped, so Dragon has done their homework and not simply copied the incorrect mesh on some museum pieces.
I have a few small quibbles with the kit, especially the omission of a turned aluminum barrel. Dragon’s slide molding technology is very good, but the styrene barrel is attached in two places to the sprue tree and will require some clean-up. I also would have liked to see the bottle-shaped single-baffle muzzle brake (the same one used on the Pz. IV Ausf.2
) as a variation. While only a handful of vehicles had them because of production shortages for the double-brake version, it would have been an easy thing for Dragon to include the alternate brake.
There are extra Winterketten
tracks for mounting on the rear engine deck, but no conventional ones for mounting on the front. Crews regularly draped extra tracks along the sloping sides of the fighting compartment, across the front of the hull and even bolted them along the sides of the hull between the return rollers and the road wheels. A few extra tracks could have been included at little or no extra cost, even pre-molded lengths from earlier kits.
painting and decals
I don’t know if Dragon has heard me, but thankfully the decals and markings avoid their usual multiple “unknown” unit” paint & marking schemes, and include three interesting variations:
StuG. Brigade 901, Kharkov 1943 in overall Winter whitewash
StuG. Brigade 901, Kharkov 1942-43 in Panzer gray and a hint of whitewash
14. Luftwaffe Felddivision, Norway 1943 in gray with white dots.
The Luftwaffe version even gives modelers a choice of three female sweethearts’ names for the side of the vehicle (“Gerda,” “Erika” and “Ulla”). I don’t recall seeing a Norway-front vehicle before, so this is certainly an enticing rarity. Since anywhere from 250-330 of the F/8 variant were produced, presumably there are other paint schemes that could be used, and the AM decal companies can step in here.
With the heavy lifting on the Panzer IIIs already done, Dragon is doing a nice job of issuing interesting variants in both the tank and assault gun versions. The key is making sure the dimensions are correct, as the StuGs got bigger as the war went on. I hope DML will keep dialing back the clock and give us an early StuG. III (Ausf. B was the most-produced early variant), and I'm happy to see a mid-late Ausf. G coming out from Cyber-Hobby
In the case of this particular kit, it has some excellent features to it, and I look forward to doing a build log.
1. Hitler’s Tank Killer: The Sturmgeschütz III at War 1940-1945 by Hans Seidler (Pen & Sword);
2. Walk Around: Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. G by Tom Cockle (Squadron Publications). This book has enormous detail on the later StuG IIIs, including some information about the Ausf. F/8.
Thanks to Dragon USA for supplying the review kit. Please mention Armorama when ordering this model.