|Jagdpanzer vs. Panzerjäger||by Doug Chaltry|
|16 September 2002||email: doug(at)ontheway.us|
This article was written before the new Hasegawa
Jagdpanzers were released.
Many years ago, ESCI released two versions of the Jagdpanzer based on the Panzer IV chassis. They called one the Jagdpanzer IV, and the other a Panzerjäger IV, but what exactly is the difference?
According to Thomas Jentz, during the war, any vehicle mounting a self-propelled, turretless gun, including the self-propelled howitzers and Sturmgeschütz, were called Panzerjägers. It is a convenience to refer to the closed-top vehicles as Jagdpanzers in order to differentiate them from the open-topped vehicles. So all closed-topped vehicles, including the Sturmgeschütz, the "Hetzer" (which is also a misnomer), as well as the vehicles based on the Panzer IV chassis, were collectively known as Jagdpanzer. But apparently, both names were used interchangably.
The Jagdpanzer IV came in two basic varieties: the early version with a short L/48 cannon, and the late version with the long L/70. According to Jentz, the early (L/48) vehicle was officially called Panzerjäger IV (Sd.Kfz. 162). According to Walter Spielberger, it was called the Panzerjäger IV Ausf. F (Sd.Kfz. 162). Apparently, front-line troops also referred to these vehicles as "Guderian ducks."
When Hitler ordered these vehicles to be put in full production with the long L/70 gun, there were two manufacturers producing them: Alkett and Vomag. The vehicles produced by the Alkett manufacturing plant had a raised superstructure, because they were based on modified Panzer IV chassis instead of being built from the ground up as Panzerjägers. These Alkett vehicles were officially called Panzer IV/70 (A). Post war researchers have labeled them as the "interim solution" although this name was never used during the war.
The L/70 Panzerjägers built by the Vomag plant were officially named Panzer IV/70 (V). Spielberger notes that they were now referred to as Sd.Kfz. 162/1, although Jentz still calls them Sd.Kfz. 162, the same as the L/48 version.
So, what are the ESCI kits?
Panzerjäger IV (Ausf. F)
Although this is a very nice kit on the whole, there are a few detail errors and inaccuracies. The kit includes the short L/48 gun, and side skirts (these are the only differences between the two kits). It is a fairly well-detailed kit, but it is not quite as fine as the newest kits from Revell and Hasegawa. The tracks and bogie wheels are extremely nice (better than Hasegawa's, and assuming you get the hard plastic tracks), but the engine deck and superstructure roof details are not completely accurate. The commander's hatch is too squared off at the corners, the panel lines are raised, and on the engine deck, the various panels and ventilation grates are slightly misshaped. But these details are only noticable when comparing the kit to photos and scale drawings, and should be perfectly suitable. The return rollers are poorly shaped, and should be improved by separating them into two. They should be the steel variety, not rubber-tired, but with their small size, they look good enough as they are.
I have not seen any photo or drawing showing the tow cable on the right superstructure side, so I would recommend removing the molded-on cable from the kit hull. Also, the instructions tell the builder to add the gun barrel travel lock (part 35), but this lock was used only with the L/70, not this L/48, so it should be left off. Most of these vehicles carried zimmerit coating, which will need to be added by the builder. Early Panzerjaegers had two machinegun ports on the superstructure front, but the kit only depicts one (the conical cover to the right of the gun mantle). A second one is needed on the left side, just above the left corner of the driver's viewport. Also, the right side cover should be moved upwards a little bit; right now it looks to be about 2mm too low on the hull.
The arrangement of the spare track and wheels needs correcting. The earliest examples of this vehicle (those with the two machinegun ports) had the spare track mounted on the front hull, and the spare wheels in the racks at the rear of the hull, as included with the kit. But early on in the production run, the spare track was relocated to the rear hull where the spare wheel racks are in the kit, and the spare wheels were then moved to the top of the engine deck, over the left ventilation grate. The kit instructions tell the builder to put them all on the rear hull, which is incorrect.
As production continued, further changes were introduced, such as dropping the muzzle brake (which is easy as the kit muzzle is a separate part), switching to flame-dampening mufflers (which are not included in the kit), squaring off the armored cover for the radiator caps on the engine deck (which the kit already looks like), no longer applying zimmerit, and reducing the return rollers from four to three. So if you want to forego adding zimmerit, then you really should make these other changes as well.
This is my attempt at sketching a flame-dampening muffler. Should be fairly easy to scratchbuild.
According to the dimensions included in Jentz, these kits scale out very well to 1/72nd. Both the front and the rear fenders are just a bit too long (about 1mm should be shaved off each). Also, the side walls of the superstructure should have a slightly more flat angle, so the superstructure roof is about 1.5mm too wide, although the overall vehicle width is spot on.
Jagdpanzer IV - Panzer IV/70 (V)
This kit has several of the same errors as the previous kit, plus a couple new ones. First of all, the long cannon is included, which is correct. It is also correct to add the gun travel lock, and the spare wheels are to be attached in the proper location in the engine deck. However, the instructions tell the builder to add two lengths of spare track, one on the hull front, and one on the rear, when only the rear location is correct. Again, I would remove the tow cable molded onto the hull side, and relocate the machinegun port cover about 2mm up on the hull front. Although the kit does not include them, many of these vehicles also wore side skirts.
Only the early examples of this vehicle had zimmerit coating, so it is much easier to leave it off of this kit than the L/48 kit. If you want to build an early version with zimmerit, you can pretty much build the kit out-of-the-box, and have it be fairly accurate. However, if you wish to build a standard version without the zimmerit, then there are a couple more modifications which need to be made. These include reducing the return rollers from four to three, replacing the kit muffler with flame-dampening mufflers, and replace the two front roadwheels on each side with steel wheels (you can get a pattern for these from the Revell Sturmgeschutz IV kit). The later version of the vehicle had pilzen added to the superstructure roof, along with a rangefinder mount for the commander, and changing the tow hitch on the lower rear hull to a vertical orientation. The final version of the vehicle, produced in the last months of the war, reverted to the older style, cast idler wheel, and dropped the air intake covers on the brake access hatches on the forward hull.
The majority of these changes and corrections should be quite easy to accomplish, so it should be possible to build a vehicle from almost any point in the production runs of these two vehicles. Now, if only some manufacturer will release a kit of the Panzer IV/70 (A)!
References: Panzer Tracks No. 9 - Jagdpanzer, by Thomas L. Jentz, and Panzer IV & Its Variants, by Walter J. Spielberger.