Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.N w/ Winterketten
The Pz.Kpfw.III was intended to be the mainstay of Germany's Panzerwaffe and became so in the early period of the war. As enemy armored vehicle technology advanced however, the Pz.Kpfw.III reached the limit of its capabilities, due in large part to the size of its turret ring which prevented it from being up-armed with a long-barrelled 7.5cm gun which was deemed necessary to combat newer enemy vehicles such as the Soviet T-34 and KV-1. The Pz.Kpfw.IV, originally intended for infantry support, assumed the anti-armor role, though it was supplemented but never entirely superseded by the Pz.Kpfw.V Panther. Subsequent Pz.Kpfw.III chassis production was largely diverted to the StuG.III assault gun, which also acted as a tank destroyer when armed with the long-barreled 7.5cm L/43 and L/48 guns.
The Ausf.N was the final turreted variant of the Pz.Kpfw.III. In an ironic case of role reversal, it was armed with the same short-barreled 7.5cm KwK L/24 gun originally fitted to the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.A thru F, and assumed an infantry support role. The 7.5cm gun fired a superior high explosive round compared to the 5cm L/60 gun in the Ausf.L and M, and could also fire a shaped charged armor piercing round with good anti-armor performance.
According to Panzer Tracts No.3-3, a total of 614 were completed by four different factories between July 1942 and August 1943.
* According to Tom Jentz in Panzer Tracts No.3-3, there was no difference between an Ausf.J and an Ausf.L. Ausf.L was simply an administrative term adopted between March 28 and April 3 1942, to denote any Pz.III with the 5cm L/60 gun.
A further 37 were converted from existing vehicles of various Ausfahrungen returned to the factory for overhaul.
Beginning in May 1943, the assembly firms (by that time, only Miag and MNH) began fitting schürzen armor to the hull sides and turret of the Ausf.N. This practice continued at both manufacturers until the end of their production runs.
Wide tracks for better flotation in snow, known as Winterketten or, officially, Schneegleiskette, were first delivered to Panzer units in October 1942. These could be combined with ice cleats (Gleitschutzstollen) fitted to the center of the track links for better traction in icy conditions. When used, these ice cleats were attached to intermittent track links rather than to every link, and could also be fitted to 'regular' tracks.
When the first independent heavy tank battalions (schweres PanzerAbteilungen) were formed, they were equipped with nine Tiger Is and ten Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.Ns for close support.
New from TAKOM is kit #8011, Pz.kpfw.III Ausf.N w/ Winterketten. This kit is part of TAKOM's 'blitz' range which provides a reduced parts count for simplified assembly without significantly sacrificing detail.
The kit represents a vehicle based on an Ausf.J or L chassis, since it lacks the cylindrical exhaust muffler with sealing valve that was present on the Ausf.M. It also lacks schürzen on the hull and turret, which is correct for an Ausf.J or L chassis since, from the table above, all those vehicles were completed prior to May 1943 when schürzen began to appear on the Ausf.N.
The kit comes in TAKOM's usual 'brick-shaped' box. It is comprised of 540 grey styrene parts on 9 sprues, plus a clear sprue with 4 parts, and a small photo-etched brass fret with 8 parts. All the styrene parts are crisply molded and free from flash. Note that 165 of the parts are for the link-and-length tracks, which include the ice cleats.
Some of the sprues are taken from prior TAKOM kits, which results in some parts not being used, and also in some sprues having duplicate identifiers. For example, there are two sprues marked D and two marked E. This should not provide any significant problems for a moderately experienced modeler, but you must take care to identify the correct part numbers, rather than simply using a part that 'looks like the one in the instructions'.
The upper hull is provided as a single piece with integrally molded fenders.
The lower hull is supplied as a separate, single piece conventional tub. The side escape hatches are supplied as separate pieces so you can depict them open if you wish. Be aware though, there is no interior provided in the kit.
The turret is a one-piece shell, with a separate front plate. The molding includes roof detail such as the inset screws, but also includes molded-in mounting plates for the schürzen mounting brackets, which were only fitted to Ausf.Ns based on the Ausf.M chassis. The instructions direct you to remove these details, which should not present any problems for a reasonably experienced modeler.
The turret rear stowage bin is supplied with a separate lid so you can mold it open if you wish. Note however, that the bin comes from TAKOM's Pz.Kpfw.III Ausf.M kit and includes the base plates for the rear schürzen mounting bracket, which is not appropriate for an Ausf.N based on the Ausf.J/L chassis. The instructions direct you to remove the bracket, which will require care since it is surrounded by other fine detail which must remain. Note that there is an additional stowage bin included in the kit, so take care to use the correct part.
Sprue A contains running gear and hull detail parts. There are two such sprues in the kit.
The kit includes parts (A45 and A46) to represent the armored covers for the cupola vision blocks in both the open and closed position.
The kit also includes parts for the smoke grenade launchers fitted to the upper front corners of the turret sides. These were fitted to Pz.Kpfw.III turrets commencing in September 1942 and continuing until May 1943, so they are correct for an Ausf.N based on the Ausf.J/L chassis, as depicted by the kit.
Sprue C contains lower hull and stowage parts. There is one such sprue in the kit.
Sprue D contains upper and lower hull detail parts, plus external stowage items. There is one such sprue in the kit.
Sprue E contains turret detail parts. There is one such sprue in the kit.
The commander's cupola included in the kit is the earlier variant as fitted to the Ausf.J/L, with a two-piece commander's hatch. A later cupola with a single-piece hatch was introduced in May 1943, and is included in the kit on sprue M, but was only fitted to Ausf.Ns based on the Ausf.M chassis.
The kit includes parts for the Vorpanzer spaced armor on the mantlet. These parts are not called out in the instructions, but photographs indicate that a few very early Ausf.Ns carried this armor. It was soon omitted due to concerns about the weight, though the Vorpanzer on the front of the superstructure remained, and is also included in the kit on sprue D.
Sprue M contains detail parts for the turret, including another rear stowage bin. There is one such sprue in the kit.
The main gun barrel is molded as a single piece, and features a hollowed out muzzle with rifling. The kit also includes alternative parts for the coaxial machine gun, with the gun itself mounted, or absent with only the armored barrel shroud present.
Sprue Q contains various lower hull detail parts. There is one of these sprues in the kit.
Another Sprue D (as noted above, there are two sprues marked 'D' just to make things fun) contains track links and ice cleats. There are two of this sprue in the kit. Note that the ice cleats are supplied as separate parts, so you can decide whether or not to use them on your model.
Another Sprue E (just to keep you on your toes) contains the multi-link track runs for the link and length tracks. There is one such sprue in the kit.
Sprue P contains clear parts for the headlamps and side lamps. Options are provided to depict the lamps both with and without blackout shutters.
The kit includes a photo-etched brass fret with parts for the various intake and exhaust screens.
The kit instructions are in the form of a 16-page, A5-sized booklet with black-and-white exploded view diagrams. Due to the inclusion of multiple sprues with the same identification letter, it's important to read the instructions carefully and check the numbers of specific parts during assembly.
The final page of the instruction booklet provides painting and marking options. Paint numbers are provided for the AMMO paint range.
The decal sheet provides options for four vehicles:
- Turret number 205 from s.PzAbt.503, Army Group Don, December 1942, in overall panzer grey.
- Turret number 232 from the same unit and time period
- Turret number 215 from s.PzAbt.502, Leningrad, December 1942, in whitewash camouflage over panzer grey.
- Turret number 226 from the same unit and time period
In summary, TAKOM has provided us with a well-engineered kit that will go together without any major problems. The inclusion of sprues from prior kits with the same identifier, and the consequent need to take care in selecting the right parts from the sprues to match those called out in the instructions, will perhaps pose problems for an absolute beginner but with a little care, the average modeler should have no trouble building and finishing this kit into an excellent replica of the original.
Panzer Tracts No.3-3 Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.J, L, M and N by Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle, Panzer Tracts 2009
PzKpfw III in Action by Bruce Culver, Squadron Signal Publications 1988
Tanks in Detail 7 PzKpfw III Ausf A to N by Terry J. Gander, Ian Allan Publishing 2004
Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders, pending full build.
Thanks goes out to TAKOM for this review kit.
Reviewed by Neil Stokes
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