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King Tiger (A1369)

1:35 Airfix

 

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The King Tiger, Königstiger, Sd.Kfz.182 or Tiger II was the natural successor to the widely feared Tiger that preceded it, although it was dogged by mechanical problems due to the re-use of the Tiger's transmission on an overloaded engine that was tasked with pulling around a significantly increased weight. It incorporated many advances in technology, drawing together the best features of the Tiger and Panther, and carrying a long-barrelled 88mm gun that was without peer at the time.

 

Weighing in at 70 tonnes, it was well protected from incoming fire with the sloped armour increasing the effective thickness even further, as well as encouraging shells to ricochet off. Initial production used a prototype turret design with a curve in the side to accommodate the commander's cupola, which was difficult and expensive to produce, but as they had made a number, they were used anyway. The later turret that stayed until the end of production was simplified, and had more flat surfaces, making it easier to produce, and removing the shot-trap that was present on the early curved mantlet. The B variant was the command tank, and sported a pair of aerials on the turret and engine deck, of which there were two sub-variants.

 

As well as being dogged by mechanical problems, production was also severely hampered by the actions of Bomber Command by night, and the US Day Bombing efforts, which destroyed large swathes of the production plants, severely restricting the number of contracted units that were actually delivered. It is estimated that some 500± were built before the end of the war, but as is often the case, figures are sketchy because of the chaos that reigned toward the end of the Nazi regime.

 

The Kit

The plastic in the box is unmistakably Academy, a modern take on this monster tank, which has been well received, and praised for its simplicity of build, whilst not compromising on detail. The kit is well-moulded, and has plenty of surface detail, but is depicted with a smooth outer surface with no zimmerit coating, although you are best researching whether you need to add this yourself before building, as its use was phased out in mid-production.

 

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Included in the box are nine sprues in a sand-coloured styrene, two in black containing the tracks, a small Photo-Etch (PE) brass sheet with grilles on, and a tiny decal sheet for the markings in the box. The instructions are not the modern Airfix style, but are very well done, mimicking Academy's choice of starting the build unconventionally with the turret assembly. Within the later Henschel turret, they have included substantial interior detail such as hatch rims, equipment and of course the periscope blocks, which are moulded in styrene rather than clear as you would expect. The gun is included in its entirety, and consists of an inner tube to the breech, which is split vertically and has the basic breech details moulded in. It slides within the elevation section, and around the rear are placed the sides to the breech with their protective bars to the sides of the block. The closing mechanism slots in the rear, with adjustment and sighting tubes added further along, plus the coaxial machine gun on the right-hand side. Two recuperator rams attach to the top of the breech, and a framework is installed on a lug underneath, after which the gun can be suspended on the lower turret by the use of two hinge-points, with the two-part mantlet and its coax bullet-splash guard added at the front. The underside of the turret is then laminated with another panel, and under that the turret ring is placed, with realistic toothed inner and a pair of lugs to hold it in place on the hull. The upper turret is a single part that drops onto the turret base and mantlet, and onto this are fixed the hatches, various ports, spare track-link hooks, and of course the large rear access door, through which the gun could be removed during maintenance. This hinges down to the bottom, and is made up from three layers, plus the hinge, pistol-port and grab-handle to replicate the scale thickness of the real thing. It is held in place on the rear of the turret by a pair of armoured hinges, and can be left movable if you are careful with the glue. The part of the main gun that is visible is made from a single part, with only mould seamlines to clear away, and a three-part flash-hider that replicates the muzzle brake and gives a hollow look to the barrel. The interface between the barrel and mantlet has a large armoured sleeve, which is made up from a trio of styrene parts, plus a small PE part on the top of the funnel shaped main part. It is added to the breech tube, then two short sections are slid on, and finally the barrel is slid in place, on a long, keyed peg to ensure the vents on the sides of the brake are oriented correctly. The commander's cupola with machine gun ring is added, and it's worth noting here that all the gun barrels have slide-moulded muzzles, plus some spare tracks on the hangers, and attention then turns to the hull.

 

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The first item of interest on the hull is that they don't have you starting with the wheels.  Instead, a thick section is laminated to the inside of the glacis plate to replicate the scale thickness of the armour in that location. The fenders are added next. Turning over the upper hull, and the two front hatches are supplied on an insert, which drops into a hole in the deck, and has a pair of swivelling hatch covers to allow them to be opened regardless of turret position. Engine access panels, vents and the circular grilles on the mid-engine deck are all added, as are the periscopes for the driver and machine gunner. His ball-mounted MG is fully depicted, and sits behind a four-piece assembly that permits the gun to move within the limited travel of the surrounding armoured dome or Kugelblende. Lifting lugs, pioneer tools and the supplied PE mesh covers are fixed to the engine deck, some of which are installed onto raised styrene frames so they stand-off the deck. More pioneer tools and tow cables are added to the sides, a central headlamp or empty bracket are installed on the glacis plate, and the rear bulkhead is built up with access panels, fenders and the armoured exhausts, which are of course hollow tipped for realism.

 

The lower hull is made up from a "sled" that incorporates the floor and the lower glacis plate, to which the sides are added, with all the suspension and axle points projecting through them. The suspension on the real thing was torsion-bar, and it is copied here, with nine bars with integrated axle swing-arms on the ends for each side. If you've read my armour reviews before, you'll know that I wonder about the longevity of styrene torsion bars over the long term, but if you're not bouncing it about all the time, they should last just fine. You could always apply glue to the pass-through holes once you're done to take the stress off the thinner torsion bars if you share my baseless concerns. There is a strengthening bulkhead ahead of the rear three wheel stations, that sit at about the location of the engine bay bulkhead, but is there purely to steady the sidewalls.

 

No Tiger is complete without a host of wheels to spread the 70-tonne weight over the ground and avoid sinking into the mud. Eighteen pairs of wheels of two different types are built up, from six parts each, with the two-part hubs sandwiching a rim part for each wheel. That should take quite a while to cut out 18 x 6 parts, clean them up and glue them, but as the "tyres" were metal, there's no need to paint them separately, so time is saved there. Each roadwheel pair is interleaved with its neighbours, which although it was great for spreading the load, was horrible for a mechanic wanting to remove an inner wheel in the centre of the track run, although not as bad as the Tiger I. They are held in place by central boss, which varies in length so that the inner wheel bosses project out as far as the outer ones. The drive sprockets are made up from two conical parts, and have the requisite eighteen teeth per wheel. These fit onto a three-part final drive housing that is added to the front of the hull, while the idler wheels are made of three layers and fit onto a stub axle that fits within a hole at the rear of the tank.

 

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Tracks are on two smaller black sprues, and on first inspection there just doesn't seem to be enough, but that's because they're of the link and length variety. The links are individual around the drive sprockets and idlers, but are supplied in lengths for the top and bottom runs, which might make it a little tricky to portray any track sag on the top run. It's nice that they haven't gone for the rubber-band type to further simplify the build, and the mouldings look good, with twin rows of solid guide-horns moulded on the inner face, but joining them are two tiny ejector pin marks on each link (not the joint). A little clean-up or caked-on mud will resolve this fairly easily, but you also need to take care when constructing the separate links for the curves, as they have a small separate joint that sit alongside the main joint, leaving a small gap in the joint on the outer edge of the tracks. Whilst on that subject, the little holes should go on the outside edge of the tracks, so take care when you get to this part.

 

All that remains to complete the build is to place the turret on the ring perpendicular to the hull, and twist it to lock it in place.

 

Markings

There are two very different decal options in the box, although the decal sheet consists of just a few black codes for the sides and rear of the turrets.  From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf.B, Tiger II/Königstiger, Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 509, Hungary, early 1945
  • Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausf.B, Tiger II/Königstiger, Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 503, Berlin, April 1945

 

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The decals are clearly printed and should go down just fine, and the instructions give additional information about the fittings on the outside of the hull and turret, to assist the modeller in completing their model more accurately.

 

 

Conclusion

The Academy plastic is good stuff, and should be a simple build if you stick to the manual and don't add anything yourself.  A good representation of a KT should be the result, and with a little careful weathering, it will look every inch the monster that it was. There are a pair of figures in the shape of a commander figure and a standing soldier, which are documented in the kit, and have the Octopus and Ambush dots/rings and decals might have been a nice option for those that don't fancy painting their own.  The printing is a bit dark and hazy too, but taking care with the instructions should see you through that.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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