Wednesday, September 23

1/35th scale Jagdtiger Sd.Kfz.186 Early/Late Production (2 in 1 kit) from Takom - Pt.I: Review & build

There are not many better things in the world of modelling than having a personal connection to the object you are making. John Bonanni has such a connection to Jagdtiger #331 which just happens to be the cover girl of Takom's 35th scale "Blitz" kit. Join John today as he recreates this vehicle before the painting and weathering which is to follow next week.

Build review Pt.I: Jagdtiger Sd.Kfz.186 Early/Late Production (2 in 1 kit)
From Takom
1/35th scale
Kit No #8001
- Photo-etched parts included
- Hatches can be posed open or closed
- Early or late versions of the Jagdtiger in the one box
- Tack jig included in the kit with Link & Length tracks
- Design of the kit by T-Rex Studios
- Boxart by Jason Wong
- Four marking choices included in the one box
This boxing of the Jagdtiger is the first of the new items of the "Blitz" series, starting with no. #8001. With this new series, Takom promises an affordable new approach to building plastic model kits, designed for quick and easy assembly. With accurate details and a reduced parts count, this exclusive new series is ideal for beginning modellers that require quality, and advanced modellers that require convenience. Each kit is carefully designed to focus on fit and ease of assembly without compromising accuracy or detail. 

This kit enables you to build an early or a late model Jagdtiger
History of the Jagdtiger
Jagdtiger ("Hunting Tiger") is the common name of a German casemate heavy tank destroyer of World War II. The official German designation was Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf. B as it was based on a lengthened Tiger II chassis. The ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz. 186. The 71-tonne Jagdtiger was the heaviest armoured fighting vehicle used operationally during World War II and is the heaviest armoured vehicle of any type to achieve series production. The vehicle carried a 128 mm PaK 44 L/55 main gun, capable of out-ranging and defeating any Allied tank. It saw service in small numbers from late 1944 to the end of the war on both the Western and Eastern Front. Although 150 were ordered, only between 70 and 88 were produced. Due to excessive weight, the Jagdtiger was continuously plagued with mechanical problems.
This monster of a tank destroyer was inspired by the successes of previous tank destroyers such as the StuG III and the Marder series. Their efficiency in a battle called for a request by Army General Staff to mount an enormous 128 mm gun on a self-propelled vehicle for infantry support in early 1942, but then Hitler changed it from its intended role to a tank destroyer. The 128 mm design was chosen as toolings already existed for the calibre, as it originated from a naval cannon design, which also was used the basis of an anti-aircraft gun. The 128 mm cannon also had a very high hit rate when compared to other formidable calibres like the 105 mm and 88 mm.
On October 20, 1943, the design was changed to use the Tiger II chassis and a wooden model was constructed for presentation to Hitler. Approved for further production, two prototypes were produced by Porsche and Henschel. Porsche version had an eight-wheel suspension system while the Henschel version had a nine-wheel overlapping suspension system similar to the Tiger II construction. The rest of the body was consistent to the current German tank destroyer designs, an armoured casemate structure was used to hold the new 128mm Pak 44 L/55 gun. The prototypes were completed and presented in February 1944, and were approved for service, earning the designation Jagdpanzer VI, but was later renamed to Jagdtiger. 150 of these Jagdtigers were ordered by the army, but only 88 (at most) were produced before the end of the war. Eleven of the Jagdtigers used the Porsche suspension system while the rest were using the Henschel suspension system.
What made the Jagdtiger very special was its enormous gun, the 128 mm Pak 44 L/55. At its introduction, no allied armour could withstand the shell it fired, and though the same lethality could be shared with the Tiger II's 88 mm Pak 43, it has a much greater effective range of over 3.5 kilometres (though a variant of the Jagdtiger was equipped with the 88 mm Pak 43 due to 128 mm gun shortages - this never entered service). The gun could penetrate an enemy tank hiding behind cover, such as a house, shooting right through the house and hitting the target on the other side. A disadvantage of the gun was its two-part ammunition, the shell and the propellant, which increases the loading time of the gun. The armour of the front of the Jagdtiger was 250 mm and 150 mm on the glacis plate. 
Like almost every casemate design, the Jagdtiger suffered from lack of turret traverse and must have the entire vehicle rotate when a target moves out of its traverse range. The Jagdtiger has the distinct title of the heaviest armoured fighting vehicle produced, weighing about 71 tons, but like most of Germany's heavy armoured vehicles late in the war, the Jagdtiger also suffered mechanical and mobility issues. The heavyweight caused it to be slow and was easy to break down if the vehicle had to rotate to aim the gun, due to the heavily strained transmission and suspensions. Also, the gun had to be locked down (cannot traverse) when not in use to avoid wearing out the mounting brackets, and a crew member had to exit the vehicle to unlock it before firing.
In Combat...
The Jagdtiger was first issued on September 1944 to the Western front in the hands of the 512th and 653rd Heavy Panzerjäger Battalions. Otto Carius, a Tiger Ace, commanded the 2nd Company of 512th to defend against the Allied offensives. He comments that the Jagdtigers could not be brought to their full potential on the battlefield due to many pressing issues. The two most pressing issues of the Jagdtiger was the mechanical failures and lack of crew training on the heavy beasts. The mechanical issues forced many Jagdtigers to be disabled and eventually destroyed by their own crew as they abandoned it. Only 20% of the Jagdtigers on the Western Front were lost in combat, the rest was due to the mechanical failures or out of fuel. 
Crew training was insufficient with the Jagdtiger and so was morale, Otto Carius noted that two Jagdtigers failed to fire on Allied armour more than a mile away in fear of an air attack, even though they were well concealed, and both broke down as they tried to withdraw from the fear of air attacks. One was disabled when it fell into a bomb crater and another was lost because of friendly fire from Volksstrum, as they had never seen a Jagdtiger before. In another instance, a lone Jagdtiger engaged an American tank platoon. When the tank platoon opened fire, the Jagdtiger withdrew not by backing up, but turned around due to inexperienced crew training, exposing the weaker side armour and was destroyed. Eventually, Otto Carius's company was surrounded in the Ruhr pocket and he ordered the guns of the surviving Jagdtigers destroyed and to surrender to the Americans. Of the ten tigers in Otto's 2nd Company of the 512th battalion, one was lost to friendly fire, another by combat, and the rest by breakdown or crew destruction. The total American armour kills reached was ten American tanks, making one Allied tank loss for each Jagdtiger loss.
Though Carius's memoir left a sour note on the Jagdtiger's combat effectiveness, it had some success. On January 17, 1945, two Jagdtigers engaged fortified positions near Auenheim with no loss. The next day, they engaged four bunkers at a distance of 1,000 meters. The combat had 46 high-explosive and 10 armoured-piercing shells fired on fortifications and tanks, the Jagdtigers were able to destroy a few Allied bunkers and tanks with no losses. Then in April 1945, 512th Battalion saw lots of action when the 1st company engaged Allied tanks and trucks on April 9th, destroying 11 tanks and over 30 other AFVs, the distance of engagement was more than 4,000 meters and ended with only one Jagdtiger lost due to an air attack. The next few days, the 1st company proceeded to destroy five more Shermans before surrendering at Iserlohn. All activity of the 512th Battalion ended with the surrender of the last of the 2nd company April 15th in the same city.
The Jagdtiger's impact on the war for Germany was negligible. There were not enough of them to change the course of the situation for Germany, plus the kill-to-loss ratio makes its production waste of resources when much better models like the StuG were able to get even higher combat performances for a much more economical cost. It represents one of Germany's last attempts to model the belief that more armour and more firepower could equal success in a battlefield against a numerically superior enemy.
Today, three Jagdtigers survive in museums. One is in Bovington Tank Museum in England, which is one of the 11 Porsche-suspension version and was captured on April 1945 by the British. Another is a Henschel-version at the National Armor & Cavalry Museum in Fort Benning, Georgia of America after being moved from the US Army Ordnance Museum, this was captured on March 1945. The last is in Kubinka Tank Museum in Russia, a Henschel-version that was captured on May 5, 1945, in Austria and is in the best mint condition of the three survivors.
History of this particular Jagdtiger, No #331:
Before we begin the build, let’s rewind back to March 1945 for a brief history of Jagdtiger 331. Manufactured in October 1944, the vehicle was attached to Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 and captured in the town of Neustadt, Germany. The vehicle is easily recognizable in photos due to the distinct damage to the front glacis plate and gun mantlet. For context, the damage looks like someone took an ice cream scoop to the front glacis, I could easily fit my first into the divot.
After capture, the vehicle was shipped to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG) for evaluation by Army Technical Intelligence. Upon arrival at the APG, 331 was missing side skirts, which exposed the red primer strips where they had been. Following evaluation 331 was stored in an open field for the following 70 years.
While outside the vehicle was painted at least twice. In the 1950's several APG vehicles were repainted, which included 331. This colour photograph is often misinterpreted as the original scheme, but the easiest way to determine the repaint is the absence of the red primer strip. At some point in the 1970’s, the vehicle was repainted to its current two-tone scheme.
The Jagdtiger for me is a special vehicle. As a kid, I travelled to the APG Ordnance Museum to see its storied collection of armoured vehicles. Approaching the vast field with tanks, from all eras of combat, one stood out among the others, it was Jagdtiger 331. Painted in a distressed white and brown scheme, the massive tank presided over the rest of the vehicles.
This kit, No #8001:
With this context, it’s obvious what vehicle I will be modelling with Takom’s model kit. Released at the beginning of 2020, this is the first in the new series of ‘Blitz’ kits by Takom. Marketed as a simplified model kit with fewer parts, but the same level of detail found on contemporary kits. Additionally, this kit allows the modeller to choose between an early and late production vehicle. 
- Photo-etched parts included
- Hatches can be posed open or closed
- Early or late versions of the Jagdtiger in the one box
- Tack jig included in the kit with Link & Length tracks
- Design of the kit by T-Rex Studios
- Boxart by Jason Wong
- Four marking choices included in the one box
Parts Overview:
The basic shape of the model is composed of two pieces, the lower bathtub style hull and superstructure. As mentioned, the Blitz line presents simplified construction and it is obvious here with most of the large plates already in place.
The centre panel of the rear deck is left off allowing the modeller to choose between early and late versions. The fuel tank vent valves can be seen here crisply moulded at the rear of each side panel. It is interesting to note the open area for the engine hatch because it’s moulded solid on the centre deck panel.
The lower bathtub-style hull piece includes details such as bolts, welds, keyed torsion bar holes, and a pistol port.
The kit provides two sprues of double-link tracks, which are moulded in link and length sections. This is a nice compromise between single link and one-piece vinyl tracks, and allows faster assembly while maintaining the characteristic natural track sag. An added benefit of these Takom’s moulding is the lack of ejection pin mark on the inner face of the track link, a welcome relief to accelerate the build time.
The major differences between the early and late style vehicles are captured largely in two small sprues. In addition to smaller details, the engine deck centre panel and front fenders for each variant are included on sprues E and F.
As mentioned early the engine deck hatch is moulded in place. Some modellers may find this as a limitation as opposed to a benefit because it prohibits the easy display of an added engine.
Smaller details are crisply moulded with minimal flash. The kit includes an MG42 if a modeller is inclined to add it to the rear deck anti-aircraft gun mount.
The rear hull plate has all the details accurately placed, but if you want to leave the rear fenders off the locating marks will need to be filled.
There are no surprises when examining the wheels, sprockets, and idlers. However, it is nice that Takom has moulded the road wheels in a way where there is no centre mould line. This may seem like a trivial detail, but it can save considerable time during the assembly process.
The kit includes a small photo-etch sheet that contains the rear engine deck screens and track cable attachment tabs. Note the interwoven mesh is nicely captured.
The waterslide decal sheet has marking sets for five different vehicles, four from Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 653 and one from Schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 512. The red Balkenkreuz is still somewhat of a mystery, I have read references to German orders on the Eastern Front to cover the white sections with red. However, after examining a series of photos some of the Balkenkreuz’s appear to be initially painted in red. If you happen to know more, I would love to hear it.
Building the kit:
The photoetch engine screens fit perfectly and only required attachment bolts, which were made with a Waldron punch and die set. I also replaced a few bolts on the rear casemate hatch because the mould line directly ran over the centre of the bolt and it was easier to replace as opposed to clean up. 
I must confess, in "Blitz" fashion and the lack of parts to haggle over, I flew through this build in about 3 nights of working and neglected to take many in-progress photographs.
The only major troublesome area was attaching the front casemate plate. It just would not fit in any way I tried. The only way to get it into place was to remove a significant amount of plastic on the lower plate portion that ‘keys’ into the side hull. After attaching, I recreated the weld using Aves Epoxy Putty.
I choose to model an early style vehicle and therefore removed the centre spare track link locating marks. Fortunately, they are moulded as positive locating marks and a few swipes with a sanding stick easily removed them. I added Tamiya Basic Type Putty to restore surface texture, which was removed during sanding. 
That is all of the build section out of the way, Follow this link to the second part of this build where John shows us his very neat painting, weathering and finishing steps...
John Bonanni

Thanks to Takom for sending this kit to me to build and review...