Very briefly, the Sturmgeschutz III was initially designed as an assault gun to support infantry. It mounted a short barreled 7.5cm howitzer that was highly effective at short range but lacked armor penetration. It was not intended as an anti-tank weapon until German forces encountered the Soviet T-34 and KV series tanks and Germany found itself in desperate need of more powerful guns. Starting in March of 1942, a new, 7.5cm L/43 gun was installed in the StuG. This new, high velocity weapon made the StuG a potent anti tank platform. A new exhaust fan was installed on the top of the fighting compartment to evacuate fumes. In June of 1942 the gun was upgraded to an improved 7.5cm L/48 and a 30mm applique armor plate was added to the hull front at which point the two hull mounted headlights were discontinued. The hull was still based on the Pz. III ausf. F. The easiest way to tell this StuG from the later F/8 version is by looking for the towing brackets. If mounted to the hull front it is an F, as the F/8 has them incorporated into the hull sides. 366 StuG. III Asuf. F were produced. According to the write-up from Dragon
the L/48 was installed on the last 31 vehicles. According to the website History of War, sources differ on the exact number, with the installation beginning with the 121st machine.
has offered variations of the StuG Ausf. G and F/8 in various production times, and now offers this late style Ausf. F. All but one of the sprues provided are from previous kits of the Pz. III, StuG III G and F/8. This kit comes in the standard box with artwork depicting a StuG. III Ausf. F in a whitewash over yellow base. The inspiration for the box art may have come from one of the photos here: http://plaza.rakuten.co.jp/mahoroba1234/3124/ about 3/4 of the way down the page. Inside the box, the parts are all bagged separately to prevent parts breakage. They are packed very tightly with the usual issue of getting everything to fit back in the box neatly. The parts all appear to be typical of Dragon's very high standard of molding. I did not see any deformed or damaged parts, no sink marks or flash in my once over, and lots of very fine detail. I couldn't find the DS tracks at first, as they were tucked carefully against the side of the box to protect them and keep them straight.
The suspension is from the StuG. III ausf G kits and offers the delicately molded drive and idler sprockets and road wheels with the lettering visible on the sides of the tires. The Idlers get etch inserts, now in three separate curved pieces rather than the one circular piece that is depicted in the instructions, used to make the inner lip face. It also has a separate hub. The drive sprockets are of the 6 spoke/opening type. Considerable detail is molded onto the hull but there is still quite a bit to add, with full length torsion bars and bump stops, and the forward return roller mounts are separate parts. You can see on the hull where the side hatches were blanked off, so a bit of filler and sanding will be required to fix this. There are a few holes to open up, and some pour tabs to remove from the top edge of the hull box. The instructions call out to mount all the running gear assembly at this point but some may prefer to leave it off for painting and detailing purposes.
Rear plate details include exhausts with the ends slightly opened, and the modeler can bore them out further for enhanced detail. Some small molded on details must be removed during construction and an etch exhaust deflector (?) is provided. The track guards have molded detail on top and bottom, though there are some ejector pin marks on the lower surface. Make sure to choose the correct set as there are three different sets offered on the various sprues. There are some details to remove and holes to open up here as well. Tools include molded on clasps.
The fighting compartment is neatly detailed with nice weld beads and bolt heads. The radio boxes need some small holes filled. There are etch straps included for the crew MP40 and detailed radios are also included for the hull interior, so there is something present if the hatches are left open, and also an insert containing the floor, gun mount and detailed gun with full breech. No spare rounds or other details are provided so additional details will have to be sourced elsewhere or scratched. Conversely, if the modeler is going to have the hatches closed, many of the interior details can be skipped and parts saved for later. There is a small etch piece for the gunner's sight.
The front and rear hull plates have lots of small details, particularly at the rear where separate hinges and tie down hooks are added. The bolted on applique armor plate is provided but has two spots that must be trimmed down. Etch screens are provided for the intakes. The engine deck hatches could be posed open but no engine is provided.
The very detailed gun and mount are separate assemblies. The gun includes the early ball style muzzle break as well as the later style. It is important to not attach the gun to the mount as final assembly requires a careful process of putting each of these sub assemblies together to get the gun mount into the hull and everything else set around it. Once everything is in place, the lower hull front armor plate is added and the towing mounts, with a small etch piece, are installed. The DS tracks are handed so care is required to make sure they go on the right side. Detail on the tracks is excellent. Some find them easier to use, others will only use individual link tracks. I am fine with either style. To get the DS tracks to sag I either insert some wire into the hull sides or simple glue the track around the return rollers a bit to force some sag into the track.
Additional parts for this kit include the gutter style antenna stowage bins, with etch brackets to hold them in place, and two molded pieces that simulate concrete fill for the fighting compartment at either side of the gun.
The parts map shows a considerable parts count, with three different "A" sprues. Many of the parts included are marked not for use, as can be seen in the accompanying photographs. I would think it would save Dragon
some time and money to gate off a few sprues and only include the necessary parts. Certainly to save space in the box the modeler can trim and toss out quite a bit of excess. Aside from the instructions showing the etch rims as single circular pieces when they are three parts (I imagine this was done to save space on the etch fret) and a small CAD error where a transmission hatch was turned into a box, I can see no errors in the instructions as of yet. The instructions are busy and attention is required, but this really isn't a difficult kit, which by saying this I hope I have not cursed myself. There really is a lot of detail provided and with some careful study things make sense.
The instructions do include a painting guide with paints called out by number for GSI Creos Corp Aqueous
hobby color and Mr Color
, and Model Master
enamels, as well as giving the name of the color. The instructions have a painting guide for two vehicles showing left side profile, front and rear views for two vehicles, both unidentified. The first is the box art vehicle, dark yellow base with white wash, and the second a dark yellow base with olive green stripe pattern. Both vehicles are represented in color on the box side. The decal sheet consists of two Balkencreuz. I don't know what is up with modeling companies going with minimal decal options lately. Maybe they expect everyone to go the aftermarket route, which is the most likely route with this kit.
Overall, I like what I see in the box. There appear to be no major issues. I don't possess any vast knowledge of the StuG III, but I do like the subject as a modeler. From what I can see from photos online, what this kit depicts is fairly accurate. The only issue I could see with online photos is the length of the gun, though the gun change appears to coincide with the removal of the front headlamps. As far as the kit contents are concerned, my only real gripe is the lack of decal selection. It seems there is really no effort made, with no identified unit, and only the two Balkencreuz, as if the kit was an afterthought following the F8 production. Fortunately, some aftermarket decals are available from Star Decal
(formerly Bison) and there may be others as well. I have not taken a great number of photos of the sprues as most have already been seen, and I will provide closeups during the construction phase, which is where I think it will matter more.
References Online Tank Encyclopedia
History of War