By now even my mother probably knows the Sturmgeschütz
III family of self-propelled artillery mounted on the Pz. III chassis was the Wehrmacht's most-successful vehicle. Over 10,000 were built and they accounted for more enemy tanks destroyed than any other AFV by a 2-1 ratio. Dragon has been releasing virtually the entire line of Pz. III and Sturmgeschütz III variants, with the latest the Sturmgeschütz III ("Fl" for Flammpanzer
or "flamethrower tank").
Dragon often issues oddball or specialty vehicles in limited-runs through its Cyber-Hobby arm, and the kit is a perfect example of that marketing philosophy: the Sturmgeschütz III (Fl) was a factory reconditioned Ausf. E or early F with the gun replaced by a flamethrower made by Schwade, the system used in other German flamethrower tanks like the Pz. III (Flamm).
The Wehrmacht had studied flamethrower tanks before the war, and noted their usage by the Italians during their invasion and depredation of Ethiopia. Despite much study, the Germans never quite embraced the concept, probably because of technical limitations. The seals inside the tank were imperfect, making for unhappy crews, and the flamethrower device required an awful lot of flammable liquid to get anything set on fire: 60-70 liters of flame oil to project a proper burst 80 meters. With the exception of some enterprising "volunteers" in the Condor Legion who used infantry flamethrowers mounted in the machine gun ports of Pz. Is during the Spanish Civil War, German flamethrower tanks didn't take the field until the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
A variety of tanks were converted to flamethrowers, including the captured French Char B1 bis. But only ten StuGs were adapted to the task of snorting fire, all of them built in May-June 1943 at Hitler's direction. The completed vehicles were sent to the Panzertruppenschule
(Tank Instruction School), where apparently they languished: there are no records showing they ever heard a shot fired in anger, with all ten returned to the Ordnance Bureau by January 1944 for reconversion to anti-tank guns. With the Reich on the defensive, the need for flamethrowers (meant to attack an enemy's hardened positions) had passed.
what you get
Inside the usual Cyber-Hobby white box you get:
15 srues of light-gray styrene
2 sprues of clear styrene for periscopes, lights, etc.
Length of wire cable
Instruction booklet with exploded-view diagrams
2 frets of PE
A tiny sheet of decals (remember, this baby never saw action)
Just as the actual vehicle was a converted StuG III F, this kit looks to be mostly made-up of the previously released Ausf. F with Winterketten
(reviewed on Armorama here
). Nearly all the major sprues but one are the same with many of the same parts blued-out indicating not used.
Since this kit builds off the sprues of a previously-released kit, there isn't a lot of chance for error. The result is another well-molded Dragon kit with little or no flash, and very subtle seam lines. Knock-out holes are pretty much non-existent, or else in places that won't show. The hull tub is cast as a single, slide-molded unit, which saves "truing" the sides of multi-piece hulls (unless there's warpage), so fit should be good.
The kit has the usual "suggestion" of an interior, with more details: two extensive radios, two MP-40 machine pistols, and a "scissors" scope that can be assembled extended through the open commander's hatch or shown folded away. But there is no floor plate to hide the torsion-bar suspension, so if you plan on having the hatches open without filling them with figures, you'll need to do some scratchbuilding. There is also no engine, which means the finely-done hatches can't be positioned open unless you purchase an AM resin engine. But overall the but will either provide the basis for scratchbuilding a more complete one, or you can simple leave the hatches closed.
The "business end" of the AFV, its flamethrower, is surprisingly simple: just a tube mounted on a box-like appendage that replaces the mantlet. All in all, it's not the most impressive thing I've ever viewed, so you'll have to imagine the destructive power it wielded. FYI: Wehrmacht doctrine was to douse the target with flame oil, then send a burst of liquid flame to set it alight.
The instructions are the usual Dragon exploded-view drawings, and I expect will have the usual mistakes and errors, though usually nothing catastrophic. The painting guide is simple: Dunkelgelb
with a Balkenkreuz on the sides and one in the rear. As mentioned above, these vehicles never left the training center, so they did not receive unit designations or tactical symbols.
In a world of "paper panzers" that never made it off the drawing board, it's good to have experimental vehicles that at least went into service, albeit with the training school. While this is a highly-limited offering, it very much fits in with Cyber-Hobby's mission of releasing unusual variants and oddball items. Highly-recommended to the right consumer.
Flammpanzer: German Flamethrowers 1941-1945 by Tom Jentz & Hilary Doyle, Osprey Publications, 1995.
Thanks to Dragon USA for this review sample. Be sure to mention you saw it reviewed here on Armorama when ordering.