Joined: 17 Sep 2006
|Posted: Sun Apr 01, 2012 2:14 pm Post subject: DML #6644 StuG III Ausf F/8 Late Production w/ Winterketten
When the German army encountered the Soviet KV-1 and T-34, orders came down to increase the armament and armor of the Sturmgeschutz III (StuG) vehicles to counter this threat. The result was a replacement of the short-barrel 7.5cm with a longer-barrel 7.5cm higher velocity weapon, the StuK 40 L/43, mounted on the StuG III Ausf F. This weapon was later upgraded itself to a longer barrel and designated the L/48 which became the standard weapon for StuG IIIs for the remainder of the war. StuG III production coincided with the Pzkpfw III production and utilized the same chassis and StuG F’s produced on the 8./Z.W. chassis introduced with the Pzkpfw III Ausf J were given the designation of StuG III Ausf F/8s to distinguish them from earlier Fs. 250 F/8s in total were produced between Sept-Dec 1942 and the DML (Dragon) kit #6644 represents one of these vehicles with the full title of StuG III Ausf F/8 Late Production w/ Winterketten.
The kit is packaged in the standard slip top cardboard box with the sprues packaged in clear bags, some of which contain multiple sprues per bag, so care is needed when removing them to avoid damaging some of the more delicate parts. The standard “Dragon card” is also included which has the separate bags of Magic Tracks, PE fret, decals, clear parts sprues, a small weapons sprue, braided steel wire, and brass wire pre-formed cage in a protective plastic container secured to it. The kit consists of over 800 parts with a great many of these marked as “Not for Use” arranged in the following:
• 15 sprues of light gray styrene
• 2 sprues of clear styrene
• 1 light gray styrene hull tub
• 1 braided steel wire
• 1 pre-formed brass wire cage
• 1 PE brass fret of 21 parts
• 2 bags each of 108 handed Winterketten Magic Tracks links
• 1 bag of 72 track ice cleats
• 1 decal sheet
• Instruction booklet
The kit bears the label designation of “Late Production” due to the features it represents that were introduced towards the end of the production run of the Ausf F/8 but this is a modeler’s/manufacturer’s designation and not something the Germans used on an official basis. The features that set this apart as a later run vehicle are the use of bolted-on 30mm armor plates to the hull nose and superstructure (introduced in Oct ’42) instead of welded plates, reinstated two-piece side-hinged front access hatches that were used on the F (Nov ’42), and an experimental machine gun shield on the roof (Dec ’42). The roof MG shield was retrofitted to all F/8s in early 1943 so some leeway exists there for those interested in timeframe accuracy. Essentially the kit is designed to represent an F/8 produced in the final two months of production, Nov-Dec ’42 in order to earn it the “late” title.
Suspension and Tracks:
The kit suspension follows the now-familiar DML Pz III/StuG III family approach of using the sprues originally created for the StuG III G kits and includes torsion bars connected to the swing arms. The road wheels include excellent hub, rubber rim, and lettering detail. PE parts are included for the idler wheels to accurately represent their inner rim details. The idler mounts are of the fixed type design and are not adjustable for track tensioning or sag purposes.
The tracks provided are of the static Magic Track individual link variety and are handed and molded in different shades of grey to distinguish one side from the other and are of the special “Winterketten” design with the cast “duckbill” extensions and solid guide horns. Each link has small ejector pin marks on either side of the guide horn that will need to be dealt with and individual links may also have small amounts of flash requiring clean-up. Also included are the ice-sprag inserts as separate parts that were spaced every three, four, or five links depending on the need for additional traction in winter/icy conditions.
Hull and Fenders:
The hull consists of a large single piece tub with excellent molded detail on the exterior and interior portions including hull bottom detail for various access hatches and ports. The rear hull underside includes the air exhaust deflector as a three part styrene assembly and PE screens for the vents. The instructions incorrectly indicate that there is an option to fit or not fit the rear towing pintle to the center of the rear hull plate, this feature was present on all F/8s and should be installed regardless. The hull also features the front extension towing eyes introduced on the Pz III J as separate parts that are integrated into the final drive housing mount bases.
The fender layout is correct for a factory-standard F/8 with the shortened non-hinged front flaps and the fenders include tread pattern detail on both top and bottom surfaces. A few holes need to be opened up to fit some of the tools and the tools include molded-on clamps with hollow handles although the handles are not in-scale thickness and could use a little thinning for a better appearance. The rear Notek late provided is the later tubular style and has a clear lens part for added detail. Options are also provided for the rear fender flaps that include use of PE parts or styrene parts as the mini fender extensions when the flaps were raised. PE or styrene options are also provided for the rear flap catches. Braided steel wire is provided to construct the two tow cables along with styrene cable ends. The wire is packaged in a tight circle and very stiff/springy, so patience is needed to form it in the correct looped shape between the fenders and casemate sides. Also take care with the recommended length of 110mm per cable as that likely includes the cable ends in the total length required.
Upper Hull and Casemate:
The upper hull consists of three modules covering the glacis and maintenance access hatches, the casemate, and the engine deck. The glacis has the bolted on 30mm extra armor plates as a separate part with excellent bolt detail and the access hatches have excellent detail on both the interior and exterior surfaces should you decide to add an interior and display them open.
The casemate is molded as a large tub with additional separate side panniers with excellent weld detail included. The casemate roof is a separate part as are all the hatches, providing many options for displaying the interior detail, and alternate open or closed hatch parts are provided to accurately simulate the hinge arrangements in either position. The casemate front plate includes separate bolted-on armor plate parts and clear parts for the driver’s vision port and periscopes. The periscopes can be posed in either the raised or lowered position and a clear armored glass part is provided for the side vision port as well. The kit also includes a finely detailed pre-formed brass wire cage as part of a multi-part assembly for the gunner’s sight periscope opening as an option for greater detail or a one-piece styrene part if you’re not feeling adventurous enough for the metal parts.
The option is provided on the casemate roof to fit the MG shield in either the raised or lowered position and 4 holes must be opened up to take the hinge plates if it is fitted. A small side note, the loader’s hatches needs to be open if you do mount the MG shield and show it posed in the upright position as it couldn’t remain standing on its own and relied on the hatch to keep it in place. It’s also curious that the instructions never indicate that you should assemble and install the MG34 that is provided on its own little sprue to go with the shield if you choose that option.
The engine deck is nicely detailed and includes PE screens for the side air intakes. The access hatches include the Pz III Ausf J-style armored air intakes and single piece hatches in keeping with the StuG F/8 design. Tools are included with molded-on clamps and the gun cleaning rods are a multi-part assembly for added detail as well. Two spare road wheels and mounts are provided along with a rack for mounting a run of 14 spare track links.
Due to all of the hatches that can be posed open, quite a bit of the interior is visible if you decide to go all-in and display it. The kit includes highly detailed radio and communications gear for the side panniers as well as two MP40 crew weapons for the rear bulkhead. The MP40s include PE slings and PE leather securing straps for additional detail. The commander’s “rabbit ears” periscope can be assembled in either the stowed or deployed position and the instructions don’t call this out but you have the option of using a clear part for the scope (V2) or the styrene part (E16) as you prefer.
The StuK gun breech is highly detailed and is a multi-part assembly and is part of a highly detailed mount and interior arrangement. The gunner’s sight is provided as a clear part and seats are provided for both the gunner and commander. The floor and rear bulkheads have finely detailed compartments and tread plate included, the only thing really missing from the interior are the ammunition compartments.
Instructions and Finishing Guide
The kit instructions follow the standard DML mode of fold-out black and white exploded diagrams and sub-diagrams and consists of 17 steps for full assembly. The decal markings are printed by Cartograf and are clear and in-register. The Painting and Markings guide provides for the following 3 possibilities:
• StuG Brigade 901, Kharkov 1943 winter whitewash over dunkelgelb
• StuG Brigade 901, Kkarkov 1942-43 winter whitewash over panzer gray
• 14 Luftwaffe Felddivision, Norway 1943, panzer gray with disruptive white and green pattern
The F/8 represents one of those “transition” type of expedient vehicles that the Germans developed as the war progressed. The kit is finely molded with excellent detail throughout and lots of options regarding the interior and how far you want to take it in terms of display. The kit is limited to largely a winter scheme or setting since only the Winterketten-type tracks are provided and the decal markings reflect that limitation with the choices included. Recommended for the builder looking for a winter StuG to add to their build collection.