by: Talal Mashtoub [ ]
introductionThe Sd. Kfz. 138 Jagdpanzer 38(t) - better known today as the Hetzer (German for chaser) - was a German late-war light tank destroyer developed in 1943 that was based on the Panzer 38(t) chassis. The Hetzer was designed to be cost effective and easy to build in order to meet the production needs of the German army in the later stages of the war. The chassis of the Panzer 38(t) was chosen for its reliability and simplicity. However, it had to be widened and lengthened in order to support the weight of the new and heavier hull design. Its armament included a 75mm Pak 39 L/48 gun mounted to the far right of the vehicle to accommodate the crew and a MG34 mounted on top of the hull that could be fired remotely from inside the crew compartment. The Hetzer performed well in ambush situations where it was able to use its low silhouette and decent frontal armor to its advantage. Its main gun was strong enough to take out most tanks it encountered (except heavy tanks) at long ranges. Its main weaknesses were its poor side armor, very limited gun traverse, and a crammed interior which made it unpopular with its crews. Despite these limitations the Hetzer was low profiled, fast, cheap, hard hitting, and is considered to be one of the best German tank destroyer designs.
Academy’s Hetzer Kit # 13278 is its third variant released since the original Hetzer kit was launched back in 2012. This variant represents the “Early Version” of the Hetzer which is distinguished by the mesh guarding on the exhaust shroud on the rear engine deck.
contentsThe kit is nicely packaged with the box art portraying the vehicle in a sand yellow paint scheme. The box contains the following:
• Sprue A x1 containing the upper and lower hull.
• Sprue B x1 containing the sponson, figures, gun barrel, and tools.
• Sprues C &D x2 containing the road wheels, idler, drive sprocket, and suspension.
• Sprue F x1 containing the mantlet, engine deck covers, and side skirt armor.
• Sprue H x2 link and length tracks.
• 1 decal sheet.
• 2 small photo etch frets.
• 1 piece of string for the tow cable.
• 1 build instruction pamphlet.
• 1 painting and marking guide with 3 different options.
The building instructions are printed in black and white, the instructions are clear and easy to follow. There are a total of 12 steps to complete the build of the vehicle and an extra step at the end to assemble the figures. Practically all the parts in this kit appear to be carry-overs from the previous variants of this kit. The parts guide at the end of the build instruction sheet calls out several unused parts, but from building academy kits in the past they are not always accurate so there might be more you end up with. The main differences I see in this kit compared the “Late Production Version” variant is an extra photo etch fret for the exhaust system and no paint mask for the circular camouflage patter scheme.
The build sequenceSteps 1 and 2: The first 2 steps start out with the suspension components and return roller. The suspension was upgraded on the Hetzer in comparison to the Panzer 38 (t) to compensate for the weight increase from 9.8 tons to 16tons.
Step 3: The road wheels, the idler, and drive sprocket go on the lower hull and suspension system. The road wheels were also enlarged on the Hetzer to help with the additional weight.
Step 4: This step begins with the assembly of the link and length tracks and the sponson. There is 1 long piece that goes on the bottom of the road wheels and 2 medium size track pieces that have a slight sag to them that go on either side of the return roller. The remaining individual and smaller pieces wrap around the idler wheel and drive sprocket.
Step 5 & 6: These steps call for the assembly of the rear hull plate and all the hatches and covers on the upper Hull. The hatches are individually molded and can be easily assembled in the open position.
Step 7: The periscopes and vision blocks go on in this step. These are not clear parts and are molded in the same yellow styrene as the other parts.
The rest of the tools and accessories on the upper hull as well as the side skirt armor go on in these steps. Step 8 also calls for the assembly of the PE mesh heat shield on the exhaust shroud which is one of the key distinguishing features of an early version variant.
Step 11-12: These steps go through the assembly of the main gun and the remote operated MG34 mount. Unlike most armored vehicles of WW2 the Hetzer’s main gun was actually mounted on the inside of the upper hull instead of the hull floor due to limited space of the design.
Step 13: In this last step you assemble the 2 crew figures provided in this kit. These are the same figures that were in the Academy’s “Late Production Version”. The figures are posed with one member of the crew sticking out his hatch manning the MG and the other on the outside of the tank for whatever reason guiding the MG gunner.
Painting and marking
There are 3 paint and marking options provided which are all unidentified units. Academy also provides a table on the build instructions sheet that has color callouts for several brands including Vallejo, Revel, Testor, Life color, Humbrol, and GSI Ceros.
• Paint Scheme 1: Sand Yellow paint with BalkenKreuz markings
• Paint Scheme 2: Sand Yellow base with a dark green cammo pattern (no markings)
• Paint Scheme 3: This scheme appears to depict a Hetzer captured by the Polish Home Army during the 1944 Warsaw uprising. The paint scheme is a sand Yellow base with a dark green cammo pattern that has a red brown outline. It has a BalkenKreuz marking overlaid buy what appears to be an eagle (possibly the Polish coat of arms) and the words “Chwat” which translate to brave.
ConclusionLike most Academy kits out there the detail on this kit is sufficient but nothing spectacular, and the piece count is low making it an ideal kit for anyone looking for a quick build. The sprues are all nicely molded with no flash on them, and the figures are a nice bonus to the kit. The link and length tracks are a nice touch to the model and should help significantly speed-up the build. Overall this a great value kit that looks like it will build up nicely. It can be found online in the $22-$30 range which is a very reasonable price.