I have wanted to build a small-scale Jagdpanther for some time. This must be one of the most iconic of all the German AFVs of World War Two and there are several versions available in 1/72 and 1/76. Having enjoyed a couple of Revell (ex-Matchbox) 1/76 kits recently, I was tempted by the Revell 1/76 Jagdpanther. Like most of the re-issued Matchbox kits, that one comes with a rather nice diorama base, but it is missing track-guards and its proportions just don’t look quite right to me.
There are lots of 1/72 Jadgpanthers available, but many of those have dimensional issues too. At least one (also produced by Revell) is actually closer to 1/76 than 1/72! However, for me, the greatest issue with most small-scale Jagdpanthers (as well as Panthers and Tigers) is the tracks. The large, broad, heavy tracks fitted to this vehicle have characteristic sag from the front sprocket. Visually, this is a very distinctive feature of this vehicle, and one that I’m not certain can be portrayed accurately by vinyl tracks.
Of course, there are also kits with link-and-length tracks available, but I do find it challenging to assemble these believably where they are assembled from individual links and pass over the sprocket and idler. However, there is one manufacturer whose 1/72 tracks I have found to be simply outstanding: Zvezda. This Russian manufacturer provides hard plastic tracks that are nicely detailed and moulded in one piece – they’re simply bent over the sprocket and idler and joined by pegs hidden within the roadwheels.
I have built two Zvezda 1/72 kits and on both, I was very impressed by their track design. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that these are the best tracks I have come across on any small-scale armour kits. I want to build a Jagdpanther, and I want the tracks to look right. So, the logical choice is Zvesda’s Jagdpanther which was first released in 2017. Will I end up happy or suffering from more 1/72 track-angst? Let’s take a look…
The Pak 43 developed by Krupp was the most powerful German anti-tank gun in service during World War Two. It was intended to compete with the existing Rheinmetall 8.8 cm and it comfortably exceeded the penetrating ability and range of even the dreaded “eighty-eight.” The Pak 43 could penetrate the frontal armour of even the heaviest Soviet and Allied tanks at ranges of over 12km and it was accurate up to 3km. However, this fearsome weapon had one major drawback – it was so heavy and unwieldy that it made a less than perfect towed gun.
A pair of Jagdpanthers somewhere in France, 1944
A study in 1942 by the Heereswaffenamt (the R&D arm of the German army) developed what looked like an ideal solution. The new gun would be installed on a self-propelled chassis based on the then-new Panzer V Panther tank (a version was also used as the main gun for the Tiger II). Various delays meant that the new vehicle did not enter mass production until November 1943 at which time it was given the designation Sd.Kfz.173 and the name Jagdpanther (hunting Panther).
The new tank-killer housed a crew of five behind a solid slab of frontal armour that was 80mm thick and sloped at an angle of 55˚. This made the front armour impervious to most Soviet and Allied anti-tank weapons. With power provided by a 23 litre Maybach V12 petrol engine, the Jagdpanther was fast too, with a top speed of almost 30mph.
A Jagdpanther with the early one-piece main gun
However, Allied bombing raids and shortages of skilled workers and materials meant that by June 1944, fewer than fifty Jagdpanthers had been manufactured. Production accelerated after that, but only just over four hundred Jagdpanthers were produced in total. There were a number of detail changes to the Jagdpanther during production with the most obvious including a change from a one-piece to a two-piece barrel for the main gun and from a welded to a bolted mantlet. There were just two formal model designations: The first Ausf. G1 was based on a Panther Ausf. A engine deck. From around January 1945, the Ausf. G2 used a Panther Ausf. G engine deck. Many Jagdpanthers were fitted with Schürzen side-armour, though this often does not seem to have been fitted.
A Jagdpanther with Schürzen side-armour and the two-part main gun.
The earliest Jagdpanthers were also provided with the Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating. However, this was discontinued from September 1944 to speed production and because magnetic anti-tank weapons were becoming rare on the battlefield. Jagdpanthers were used on both the eastern and western fronts. Most Jadgpanthers produced during 1944 were sent to western Europe or to the Italian front. Later models served in both the east and west.
What’s in the Box?
This kit represents a Jagdpanther Ausf. G1 incorporating the later bolted mantlet and two-part main gun. It lacks Zimmerit which identifies it as a vehicle produced between September 1944 and January 1945. All 96 parts for this kit, other than for the lower hull which is provided separately, are on two sprues and moulded in fairly soft, light brown plastic.
Surface detail looks very good indeed, though all hatches are moulded in place and this doesn’t use slide-moulding so the main gun and exhaust are solid.
This is a snap-together kit, though from my previous experience, I would assume that glue will also be needed. The roadwheels are interesting, with the inner blocks of wheels being moulded as complete assemblies and only the four outer wheels provided as individual parts.
Spare track links, tow cables, tools and other small parts are provided separately rather than moulded on, which is always good to see. There are even a couple of cooling fans that will be placed inside the rear hull under the circular openings in the engine deck.
The tracks look very good indeed. Detail on both inside and outside is impressive and from my previous experience with kits from this manufacturer, I’m hopeful that they will build to a good recreation of Jagdpanther tracks.
The instructions are clear and look easy to follow. The description of how to build the tracks is worth paying attention to because this is a little different to most kits that come with vinyl or link-and-length tracks. It’s notable that the instructions state that the join in the tracks is on the top run on one side, and on the bottom run on the other.
A generic colour scheme is shown though this, like the decals, doesn’t show a Jagdpanther from a particular unit or even from a front – it’s up to you to choose which (if any) of the unit numbers you use. The decals do look sharp and they are printed in-register.
Overall, and like the other Zvezda kits I have built, this looks very good. Detail is sharp, adequate and everything seems to be in the right place for a late-production Jagdpanther Ausf. G1. Dimensionally this looks pretty close and it certainly seems to be one of the better Jagdpanther kits out there.
Would you want one?
The last two Zvezda 1/72 kits I built were impressive and I’m hopeful that this one will be just as good. If you do fancy something different, there are plenty of alternatives, though all of them seem to have particular issues.
The Revell (ex-Matchbox) 1/76 Jagdpanther from 1974 has a number of problems. It’s completely missing track-guards (though these are shown on the box art), the sprocket appears to be located too far forward compared to the upper hull and the gap between the tracks and upper hull looks too large. Ironically, the Revell 1/72 Jagdpanther released in 2010 also has dimensional issues that mean it’s actually very close to 1/76. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good kit with link-and-length tracks.
The Italeri 1/72 Jagdpanther is a reboxing of an Esci kit from 1975. Dimensionally it’s not bad (though it’s a little large in some respects), but it has parts from both early and late production models and the placement for things like the tools is very odd. This kit comes with either vinyl or link-and-length tracks, but both versions are poor, with no internal detail at all. Both S-Model and HaT do 1/72 Jagdpanthers, and both are dimensionally accurate. However, these kits are intended for wargamers rather than modellers and both are somewhat light on detail.
Dragon do a 1/72 Jagdpanther early production model in their Armor Pro series. This is a very nice kit featuring PE parts and Zimmerit on the hull. However, it features a Panther Ausf. G rear engine deck, and this would only be appropriate to an Ausf. G2 late model Jagdpanther, and none of those were provided with Zimmerit! Some people suggest that combining the early engine deck from the Esci/Italeri kit with this Dragon offering would produce a respectable model of an early Jagdpanther, but that would be a relatively expensive approach given the current high cost of Dragon kits – here is Spain, buying both these kits cost over €35!.
Trumpeter also do a 1/72 Jagdpanther, but it comes with vinyl tracks and, given that on the last Trumpeter kit I built the tracks were rather too short, it’s not a kit I’d be rushing to buy.
So, lots of choice, but it does seem that the Zvezda 1/72 Jagdpanther is one of the most accurate in terms of both dimensions and parts. It’s also fairly cheap and it does come with those lovely plastic tracks!