Eduard 1/35th Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer Mid Production

By Vic Mattes

Introduction

The Hetzer is simple and clean in appearance; a light, compact, potent German anti-tank panzer. So when the opportunity to review this version of the Hetzer arose, I jumped. I find the Hetzer one of the most intriguing German tanks of World War II, rivaling my interest in Panthers and JagdPanthers.

History

The Hetzer has its origin in Col. Gen Heinz Guderian’s demand in 1943 for a single light tank destroyer to replace the myriad of Marders and Nashorn as well as various towed anti-tank artillery provided up to that point. It was intended to give infantry divisions a limited mobile anti-tank capability. The new tank destroyer, built by BMM in Prague and by Skoda in Pilsen, was based on the highly successful chassis of the Czech-developed Panzerkampfwagen 38(t). It was better armored, carried a rather potent main gun, mechanically reliable and, being small, easily concealed. As with any vehicle, the Hetzer underwent a transformation based on feedback from the troops who used it and the need to simplify its production. In its approximate one year of production, 2454 tanks were built and fielded. Production was planned to ramp up to about 1000 units per month but was stopped when the BMM and then the Skoda production plans were put out of action by Allied bombing in March and April 1945.

Of interest and intrigue is the Jagdpanzer 38’s well-accepted name Hetzer. Its origin is not clear. Skoda confused the Jagdpanzer 38 with another project, the E-10, in some documentation and the first units were identified as such until the issue was cleared up. Another story involves a memo from Col Gen Guderian to Adolph Hitler claiming that the tank had been named the Hetzer by the troops. The source of the Hetzer designation remains unknown to this day.

Principle source for the historical information described above is Achtung Panzer! - Hetzer and the Wikipedia Hetzer entry.

The Kit

Eduard’s offering represents a mid-production version of the Hetzer. It retains the horizontal muffler on the rear deck and the twelve-hole idler wheels typical of the early model. It also carries the late model characteristics of the double arm observation telescope, the split commander’s hatch, a wider mantlet for the main gun, road wheels riveted vice bolted, and gratings over air intakes. Many of the other improvements would not be visible in a model but are well described at PzFahrer's Guide to the Hetzer.

The latest of Eduard’s trilogy of Hetzers comes in a large, strong and colorful box. The box has a picture of the Hetzer on the front as well as detailed photos of an assembled but unpainted Hetzer on the side. The seemingly oversized box contains 355 plastic parts on 14 tan sprues in 3 plastic-wrapped bundles, 130 metal parts on 2 metal frets, a turned aluminum barrel, a length of string for the tow cables, a set of Eduard paint masks for the wheels, decals and a colorful instruction booklet.

The instruction booklet is 24 pages long. The steps are not numbered yet each page constitutes a significant assembly. The assembly is well laid out. Each begins from individual pieces and is shown in computer generated 3-D drawings, oriented to show the location of all pieces when assembled. Assemblies similar on both sides are shown in successive pages to show locations. The instructions also include a brief history of the Hetzer’s origin and production.

The decals are well detailed and include, while only readable under magnification, instructions and stowage notices. The decals, coupled with detailed paint schemas well laid out on two page spreads in the back of the instruction, represent three units employing the Hetzer at the end of the war. The units represented are the Heeres-Panzer Jaeger Abteilung 714 of the 1. Fallschirmajager Divizion in Arnhem, 1944, the Panzer-Grenadier Divizion Feldherrenhalle 1 on the Czech-Austrian border in 1945 and the 2nd Division of the Russian Liberation Army in Prague, 1945.

The pieces are well defined with an absolute minimal flash. None of the pieces were damaged or broken off. While the plastic is very well detailed, the 130 pieces of photoetch allow the replacement of over 25% of the plastic pieces and provide many options for items such as tool boxes, instrument panels and tool straps. Those very few sinkholes that do exist are on the back of pieces – none are visible when assembled. The mantlet has a modicum of texture as cast iron would have. The tracks consist of single long assemblies for the top and bottom of the tracks and smaller units as well as single tracks to complete the curved assemblies.

Eduard builds the Hetzer in a different manner than most armored fighting vehicles I have seen. Rather than start with the suspension and tracks, Eduard starts with the interior. The lower hull interior is assembled first from rear to front. The highlight of the interior is a highly detailed and complete Praga AE 160k engine compartment. The lower fighting compartment is nicely detailed with 9 rounds in stowage, radios and a variety of boxes and vents. The upper hull interior is the next assembly. It also has substantial detail to include an additional 10 rounds in stowage as well as assorted boxes and view ports but to a lesser degree than the lower hull. With the hull interior complete, the Pak 39 L48 main gun assembly is constructed. Overall, the interior is beautifully done with exquisite detail. It appears to be an immense amount of work to build, paint and appropriately weather only to close it up once the upper and lower assemblies are joined. At this point, if the rear engine hatches are installed closed, all the wonderful work and detail that is the interior would be lost. For this reason, it is imperative the modeler take a close look at the assembly instructions and decide how they intend to finish the model. If the hatches are to be closed and the Hetzer used in a fighting diorama, it may not be worth the time, other than for personal satisfaction, to complete all the interior work. To put all the effort into the interior then hide it would be a crime. This was the only significant decision I saw that could affect the build.

With the hull complete, the multitude of pieces that one nominally finds attached to the exterior of the hull, tools, tow cables, fittings, etc., are attached. At this point, Eduard moves to the suspension and the tracks. If the model does have a flaw, it would be the tracks. With all the detail included for the hull and interior, the tracks are rather disappointing. They consist of two long section (top and bottom of the road wheels) and assorted small sections to create the forward and back sections. Individual tracks would have been better and even one piece detailed vinyl track would be an improvement. With the tracks on, final assembly of the Hetzer consists of attaching the fenders and side-skirts.

Recommendation

This is the first Eduard kit that I have had the opportunity to review and, now, to build. I have to say that it lives up to the quality I have read many modelers rave about. The only issues I have were those detailed above: the limited view of the interior once complete and the tracks. In spite of those challenges, I do look forward to building this kit.

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank Eduard, Matt Bittner and Internet Modeler for the opportunity to review this kit.

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