|by Rob Haelterman|
|Manufacturers: UM/Esci/OKB Grigorov/Aleran|
In the spring of 1942 the newly produced StuG III started to be rearmed with a longer 75mm gun capable of defeating the Russian armor. This changed the de facto role of the StuG from infantry support to anti-tank, but also left the infantry without a real close support weapon to combat bunkers, massed troops and softskins.
At the same time production of the PzKpfw 38(t) as a battle tank came to an end, and the chassis were turned into open-topped Marder III tank hunters.
A small series of PzKpwf 38(t) chassis were converted into close support vehicles called Sturmgeschütz 38(t) in the summer of 1942. It featured the same 75mm L/24 gun as the early StuG III but was much smaller and cheaper to produce. Sloped armor was introduced (inspired by the T-34 and later also found in the Jagdpanzer IV) which made it a well-armored and small target.
On the downside, the vehicle was very cramped, even with a crew of only 3, and visibility from within the vehicle was very limited. (The latter was partially remedied later in the production run by the addition of a small cupola for the commander.) These defects seriously reduced the effectiveness of the vehicle, although it was highly appreciated by the troops. The Waffenamt continued to give priority to anti-tank weapons, however, and curtailed StuG 38(t) production in favor of the Marder III. Production stopped completely by the spring of 1943 with only around 200 vehicles produced. By that time the much more capable StuH42, armed with a 105mm gun, had become available in sufficient numbers.
The Sturmgeschütz 38(t) concept later underwent the same fate of the StuG III and was itself upgunned with a 75mm Pak39 L/48 gun. As the StuG 38(t) was too small to house the Pak39, a substantial redesign was undertaken in which the hull was widened and the armored superstructure extended to make room inside the fighting compartment. The result became what is generally known as the Hetzer (i.e. Jagdpanzer 38(t)), which entered service in the summer of 1944.
model represents an early vehicle that soldiered on until the late
autumn of 1943 when it was completely refurbished. It got Zimmerit
and new black-out lights and was then shipped to Finland in the beginning
of 1944. It was also fitted with Winterketten, which were no luxury
in the Finnish winter, or even in the summer when the ground could
be rather boggy.
As to date (2017) no kit of the Sturmgeschütz 38(t) is known to exist in 1/72. This model was obtained by combining a UM PzKpfw 38(t) with an Esci Hetzer (which is too narrow for an actual Hetzer, but just right for the StuG 38(t)). Winterketten tracks are from OKB Grogorov; decals are from Aleran.
In case you are still wondering: yes, this is a what-if vehicle.