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Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.G Early/Ausf.G w/Air Defence Armour (TS-052) 1:35


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Sd.Kfz.171 Panther Ausf.G Early/Ausf.G w/Air Defence Armour (TS-052)

1:35 Meng via Creative Models Ltd

 

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The Panther was Nazi Germany's answer to the surprise appearance of the Russian T-34 after they finally reacted to the invasion that was Operation Barbarosa.  Although the project had been in gestation some time before, they took some design cues from the T-34 in the shape of sloped armour, resulting in the Panther that was intended to fill the gap between the Panzer.IV and the (then) new Panzer VI Tiger.  It was eventually supposed to replace both the Pz.IV and the earlier Pz.III that was really showing its age, but in reality it often fought alongside the Panzer IV.  It was planned as a lighter, more manoeuvrable tank than the Tiger, and was fitted with a high velocity gun from the outset, which gave it enormous penetrating power that was only equalled by the British 17-pounder fitted to the Sherman that made the Firefly.  The sloped frontal armour gave it an increased effective armour thickness, but this was not so true of the side armour, which was comparatively weak at too sloped to be of effect, so this area became the preferred target of engagement by allied tanks, especially by multiple Shermans, or in urban combat where this was a telling issue.

 

Like most German WWII tanks, it was needlessly complex to manufacture, so suffered in terms of volumes produced, and this led to it being rushed into service with a long snagging-list of issues still to resolve.  Later production solved most of these initial gremlins, but loses in the interim were high with many being abandoned after failing during combat, not always with time for the crews to detonate their scuttling charges.  Curiously, the Ausf.D was the first to enter service, with the Ausf.A following later in 1943, replacing attrition of the less reliable Ausf.Ds until they themselves were superseded by the Ausf.G, which became the final major variant with increased ammo storage, simplified design to ease production, and further improvements to reliability. The engineering issues were never fully cured however, with a high rate of attrition still due to mechanical issues, some of which resulted in catastrophic fires and abandonment.  The weak side-armour was thickened by 20mm with a steeper angle to better deflect shot, and the floor armour was increased to a full 25mm for mine resistance, while the driver’s viewing hatch was deleted and replaced by a rotating vision-block in a deeply armoured hood.  Front hatches were also simplified to ease construction, and many other changes were made under the armour to complete the upgrade.

 

A Panther II was planned under the Entwicklung programme, which retained a familial resemblance to the original Panther, while improving armour and suspension.  They got as far as creating a pair of prototypes before the war ended, and a mangled but still substantial chunk of the Schmallturm (smaller turret) can be seen at Bovington if you’re ever visiting.

 

 

The Kit

After a pause following the initial release of the Ausf.A and Ausf.D boxings by Meng, we're now being treated to the Ausf.G, which is subtly but substantially different in shape as a result of geometric changes made after combat experience, in an attempt to deal with its earlier faults and problems.  The box is the same shape and size as the previous boxings, but with new artwork as you'd expect, and it’s mainly the wheels and suspension sprues that are carried over from previous boxings, as these areas remained constant throughout production apart from the switch to non-strategic metal rims away from rubber.  They are augmented by new sprues that contain the parts not shared by the two variants, including much of the upper hull and superstructure.  There are eleven sprues in light-grey styrene, two runs of poly-caps, a clear sprue, three sheets of Photo-Etch (PE), one of which is nickel-plated, two braided cables, decal sheet, plus the colour-printed instruction booklet on glossy paper, with painting and markings guide at the rear.

 

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Construction begins with the wheels, which are incorrectly shown to have rubber tyres as part of the suspension, but as rubber became scarce they were replaced by fully steel wheels by this time, which are the parts that are called-out despite appearances.  The look very similar without colour, so just ignore the painting of the “rubber” and carry on.  Poly-caps placed in between the pairs are the means of attachment to the swing-arms later in the build.  The lower hull is built up from panels with cross-braces holding everything square internally, plus the sloped rear bulkhead, with the swing-arms applied to both sides of the newly minted hull.  The upper hull frame has armour added to the sides, then the sloped glacis panel, forward roof with turret-ring moulded-in, and a separate engine deck that needs some drilling to receive parts later.  Flipping the hull over, the radiator-bath inserts are painted and glued in beneath their grilles, the backing plate for the kugelblende, hinges for the forward hatches and a clear vision block are inserted from within, before the hull is flipped again and has vents, armoured covers and other small parts applied, depending on which decal option you intend to portray.  The forward hatches are made up with handles and locks, then can be inserted into position in the open or closed position by following the diagrams.  In the rear, the engine hatch with mushroom vents and handles is detailed and placed into the aperture, and a choice of two aerial styles are added to the deck, again depending on decal option.  The completed upper hull is joined to the lower at this stage, and is inverted again to install the inner sponson covers, which also have the curved front of the fenders moulded-in.  The circular hole in the rear bulkhead is also filled and detailed, and has the multi-part jack attached vertically above it.  The road wheels are also pushed onto their axles with the drive sprockets at the front, and idler wheels at the rear.  The rear stowage boxes are added to the rear bulkhead while the model is upside-down, as are the twin exhausts, with a choice of larger shrouded exhausts on cast armoured bases, or with slender exhausts on either cast or welded bases.  Additional brackets and covers are also applied, along with some smaller parts to make up the Notek formation lights that fit to their bases.

 

The tracks are assembled individually, having two separate guide horns each, and have chevroned grousers that gave better traction in poor conditions.  There are 87 links per side, with each one made of three parts.  The link body has three sprue-gates apiece, with each of the two horns having a sprue-gate each on their underside.

 

The Kugelblende can be installed either with a machine gun barrel slipped into a ball-mount, or it can be depicted with a plug in an empty mount, which is kept close at hand by a length of PE chain.  The travel-lock for the barrel can be posed up or down, the headlight, towing shackles, side-mounted stowage racks and numerous lifting-eyes on the rear deck are all glued in place, while the optional heater unit is scabbed onto the engine deck with its pizza-slice covers over a grille, plus a pair of extra slices bolted to the housing for later use.  The nearby circular radiator grilles are also added onto the deck with more PE grilles added over the top, having a spare grille to fill the space if the heating unit isn’t being used.  More PE is used to create the adjustable grilles over the cooling louvers at the front and rear of the engine deck sides, then the shallow fenders over the tracks are added from PE sheets, with small plastic supports running down each length.  Two optional air-defence armour sections can be assembled into open-ended boxes to be added over the vulnerable louvers on the deck, with an optional aerial base and tall antenna for one decal option.

 

The sides of the tank are festooned with additional track links, pioneer tools, fire extinguisher and barrel-cleaning rod tubes, the latter having handles folded up from PE strips for extra detail.  The two towing cables are fabricated from styrene eyes and the supplied braided cable of 110mm each, then are shown draped around the side of the hull, and held in place by pins through brackets on the deck.  The overlapping PE shurzen panels are hung on the brackets one-by-one to finish off the lower hull.

 

The turret is built around an inner frame, which has the roof and sides added to the outside, the roof having a number of holes drilled out, then detailed with mushroom vents and an aerial base, plus a clear vision block.  The rear panel has a circular hatch with simplified hinges added, then the bare-bones breech of the main gun is assembled and trapped between trunnions on a pair of polycaps.  The barrel has a three-part muzzle-brake made up, then it is inserted into the outer mantlet on a keyed base, with the stub of the coax machine gun inserted from inside.  A pair of lifting lugs are removed from the ends of the mantlet, and it is fixed to the turret with a spacer between them.  If the air-defence armour is being fitted, two-layers of PE are joined together on plastic mounts, then glued to the roof along with a section along the top of the mantlet.  The later commander’s cupola is cast, and has individual clear blocks slotted inside like the real thing, plus the pop-up-and-rotate hatch, and a standard pintle-mounted MG34 on a ring around the cupola.  The gun has a dump bag for the spent brass that hangs down into the open turret.  All that is left to complete the build is to insert the turret into the ring, and add the retention strap to the travel-lock if you are deploying it.

 

 

Markings

Ausf.G series production began after the switch over to dunkelgelb (dark yellow) occurred, and all the decal options are based on this colour that was applied at the factory.  The camouflage colours were issued to the units to camouflage their vehicles to suit the terrain or their whim to an extent, thinned with whatever came to hand, so there were a lot of different schemes during this period, with a huge variation of skill and care taken in the application.  Only one of the decal options is still wearing Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste, so if you wanted to depict that one, you’d either have to apply the paste yourself, or purchase one of the aftermarket solutions that are available from Meng and others. From the box you can build one of the following:

 

  • No.424, 1st Battalion, 26th Panzer Regiment, Italy, Apr 1945
  • No.213, 1st Battalion, 31st Panzer Regiment, 5th Panzer Division, Goldap, October 1944
  • No.201, 1st Battalion, 27th Panzer Regiment, 19th Panzer Division, Warszawa, September 1944
  • No.102, 1st Battalion, Headquarters, 35th Panzer Regiment, 4th Panzer Division, Courtland, Summer 1944

 

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Decals are printed in China with good registration, sharpness and colour density, with a thin matt carrier film cut close to the printed areas.

 

 

Conclusion

An excellent late Panther from Meng, with lots of detail, some interesting camouflage scheme, and with the inclusion of three sheets of PE, one of which can be used to great effect for anti-air armour sheeting, it represents a comprehensive package that will satisfy most modellers out of the box.

 

Highly recommended.

 

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Review sample courtesy of

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