I recently finished a Hasegawa 1/72 Churchill tank, and I was highly impressed with that kit. In fact I was so impressed that I was immediately keen to try another Hasegawa AFV kit, and the same supplier that had the Churchill on special offer also had this kit for under €10.
However, this is a much more recent release, dating from 2001 (the Churchill was first released in 1975). Is it as good as that kit? There’s only one way to find out…
By the middle of World War Two, the German armed forces seemed to have become more than a little obsessed with the notion of assault guns designed as anti-tank weapons. Most featured a large-calibre main gun in a fixed superstructure mounted on the chassis of an existing tank. By mid-1943, Germany already had the StuG III and IV, the Marder I, II and III, the Nashorn and the Elefant in service and the Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger were in the final stages of design and being prepared for production. You might imagine that the last thing the Werhrmacht needed was another tank destroyer, but you’d be mistaken.
During 1943 work began on designing an improved version of the existing StuG III, with a new vehicle featuring heavier frontal armour and the same 75mm Pak 42 L/70 fitted to the Panther tank. Initially given the name Panzerjäger IV, this was later changed to Jagdpanzer IV. The new tank destroyer was be based on the Panzer IV Ausf. H chassis but with modified, sloping frontal armour. A shortage of the PAK 42 meant that the first production versions, which began to appear in early 1944, were armed instead with a development of the shorter 75mm Pak 39 L/48.
An early production Jagdpanzer IV L/48 with a muzzle-brake and zimmerit
On early versions, this gun was fitted with a muzzle brake but experience in the field showed that, because the muzzle was relatively close to the ground, a huge cloud of dust was kicked up every time the gun was fired, giving away the vehicle’s position. On later versions equipped with the L/48 gun, the muzzle brake was omitted. The final version of the Jagdpanzer IV, the Panzer IV/70 (V), was provided with the much longer L/70 main gun for which this vehicle was originally designed.
A later Jagdpanzer IV L/48 – no zimmerit and no muzzle-brake.
One issue with the new design was that it was very front-heavy, which caused wear and failures to the front suspension units. To counterbalance this, spare wheels, spare track links, tools and crew stowage were all moved to a platform on the rear of the hull. Early versions were provided with the zimmerit anti-magnetic coating, though this was dropped in September 1944. Many Jagdpanzer IV were also fitted with additional schürzen side armour though this was often removed as it became easily clogged in muddy conditions.
A final model Jagdpanzer IV/70 (V).
Unlike previous assault guns which had been manned by crews from artillery units, the Jagdpanzer IV was issued direct to panzer and panzer grenadier units and manned by panzer crews. The Jagdpanzer IV served on both eastern and western fronts from its introduction in early 1944 until the end of the war. Somewhere between 800 – 1,000 Jagdpanzer IVs of all types were produced in total.
What’s in the box?
The box contains six sprues in grey plastic (two, containing the roadwheels, sprockets, etc., are identical), a set of vinyl tracks, instructions and a decal sheet.
Overall, detail looks more than reasonable, the mouldings are fairly sharp and I can’t see any flash or visible sink-marks. However, I’d also have to say that my initial reaction is that this just isn’t quite as sharp as the Hasegawa Churchill.
Most of the tools are moulded integrally with the rear hull. All the hull hatches are separate parts than can be shown open or closed. However, there is no internal detail and the hatches are fairly large, so, without figures, showing the hatches open is going to reveal a large internal void. One nice touch is that the small hatch forward of the commander’s hatch is also separate and this can be shown open with the commander’s periscope extended.
Another nice touch is that the conical cover over the MG port on the right side of the hull front is a separate part and can be shown either open or closed. However, there is also a second MG port on the left side of the hull – this was not provided on this version of the Jagdpanzer IV, so it will have to be filled. No zimmerit is provided, which is acceptable for a late model L/48, and no schürzen, which is probably also OK. The main gun barrel is solid, but it does have a separate end-piece that is moulded open.
Although the instructions don’t mention it, you can build this kit with either three or four return rollers (the holes for the centre rollers must be drilled out). Some late model L/48s seem to have had just three rollers, as does the later IV/70. However, most contemporary photos show this version with four return rollers, so that’s what I’ll be going for.
The tracks really aren’t great. I would guess that these probably date back to the original Hasegawa Panzer IV from 1974. External detail is just about OK, but there is nothing at all on the inside. I normally like to build my kits out of the box, but it there was any option here in Spain, I’d consider buying some better aftermarket tracks for what looks otherwise like a well-detailed kit.
The instructions are straightforward and seem to show what’s needed.
Only one suggested colour scheme is provided, for a Jagdpanzer of 3rd Panzer Division on the eastern front with an interesting three-colour scheme partially covered in whitewash. However, the decals provide plenty of options so it should be possible to depict a Jagdpanzer on any front.
Would you want one?
Overall, this looks like a really nice kit, accurate, sharply moulded and well detailed. Except for the tracks, which are crap. I don’t really understand the thinking behind that – why go to the time and expense of producing the moulds for a kit that features great plastic parts and then provide it with tracks that were more than thirty years out of date? Hasegawa produce several other versions of the Jagdpanzer IV in 1/72. In addition to this L/48 (late), there is an L/48 (early) version (31149), an L/70 late model (31150) and even an early L/48 with zimmerit and photo-etch parts (30027). Fortunately, if you don’t fancy a Hasegawa Jagdpanzer (and I’m guessing that all these other kits feature the same nasty tracks), there are a number of other options.
Italeri do an early L/48, though this is a re-release of an Esci kit from 1974. It isn’t a bad kit and can be built with or without the muzzle-brake and it features link-and-length tracks, a couple of figures and some stowage items for the rear hull. Trumpeter do a Jagdpanzer IV that comes with both L/48 and L/70 barrels. This comes with vinyl tracks, but they appear to be well detailed inside and out. Dragon do kits of several versions of the Jagdpanzer IV in 1/72 and all are very nicely detailed and include Dragon’s “DS” tracks.
If you prefer 1/76, Revell do a very nice Panzer IV L/70 which is a re-release of the Matchbox kit from 1978. It’s a pretty good kit, and though the vinyl tracks aren’t perhaps up to current standards, it does come with a rather nice diorama base and an infantryman figure.