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Build report: Dragon 1/72 Sturmtiger 38cm Assault Mortar

Chris Crofoot submits this great report on Dragon’s 1/72 Sturmtiger. It may be a little tank, but it packs some punch!

History
Stalingrad taught the Germans that tanks weren’t ideally suited for infantry support in urban environments. Although offering better protection than towed artillery, the ammunition they fired didn’t have the necessary destructive impact. To address this issue the Germans developed the Sturmpanzer IV or “Brummbar” (Grizzly Bear). Essentially, the Sturmpanzer IV consisted of an armored box mounting a 15cm howitzer built onto a Panzer IV chassis. The Brummbar was a successful weapon despite mechanical problems caused by the additional weight of the armored fighting compartment. As the war progressed and the situation for the Germans deteriorated, there was the recognition for the need for an even more powerful assault mortar.

This more powerful assault mortar took shape in the mating of a naval weapon, a depth charge mortar, and the panzer VI chassis. Thus, was the Sturmtiger or alternately the SturmMorser was born. The Sturmtigers were built on Tiger I ausf.E chassis that had been returned from the fronts to the factory for rebuilding. In the same vein as the Brummbar, they were essentially the same vehicle with an armored box mounting a 38cm mortar onto the Tiger chassis. The first Sturmtiger rolled out for Hitler’s inspection on October 20, 1943.

Kit:Dragon Sturmtiger 38cm Assault Mortar
Kit Number:#7204
Price:~US$15.00
Reviewer:Chris Crofoot

The main weapon of the Sturmtiger, the 38cm mortar was an impressive weapon. Originally designed as a naval anti-submarine weapon, the mortar was capable of throwing its five foot long, 750 lb, rocket propelled projectile nearly 6 kilometers. The round could penetrate 8.5 feet of steel reinforced concrete. As destructive as the weapon was it was also cumbersome. It took nearly ten minutes to load and a maximum of only fourteen rounds could be carried on board. To relieve the stress of such incredibly heavy recoil, a unique design vented the combustion gases through a sleeve surrounding the barrel. The barrel also employed a heavy counterweight on the front of the barrel to balance it. This gives the Sturmtiger its distinctive snub-nosed appearance. Reloading the Sturmtiger required the entire crew and was accomplished by means of an externally mounted crane and two hatches on the roof of the fighting compartment.

In all, only eighteen Sturmtigers were ever produced. Initially, two vehicles were used in suppressing the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. This is the only time that the Sturmtiger ever fulfilled its intended role of an urban combat stronghold demolisher. They were also used during the Arden offensive in December of 1944 but due to their slow speed they made little account of themselves. One anecdote claimed that a Sturmtiger destroyed four Allied Shermans with a single shell during fighting in 1945. Because of their high fuel consumption, slow speed, and the fact that the war situation had changed for the Germans these fearsome vehicles were of little combat value. Many were abandoned and destroyed by their crews for lack of ammunition or fuel.

The Kit
The kit comes well packed and contains three separately bagged light gray plastic sprues, separately bagged metal hull, decals, and tracks. Of immediate interest is the quality of casting on the upper metal hull. It is excellent although my example was marred by some heavy spray runs of primer. It should be a breeze to sand this down and fix this though. The quality of the plastic molding is good although I think Revell AG still has a definite advantage in this scale. The rubber tracks are quite flexible and feel like they’ll take a coat of paint very well. They are very well molded and I don’t think that individual links will offer much over them. I would recommend using thread to tie them down between the road wheels to replicate the track sag of the prototype. The box examples show them incorrectly taut across the return side of the wheels.

A nice touch is the addition of one of the 38cm rounds. It looks as though it would be possible to mount the round in the tube. There is no interior included, but who does in this scale? The one gripe I might have is the loading crane. Although adequate, this is in many ways going to be a focal point in detailing and it would have been nice to see a little more attention paid to this part. The instructions are exploded view assembly steps of the actual kit parts and are good enough for even a first-time modeler. The metal hull fits the plastic lower hull like a glove and if that’s any indication the rest of the kit should be a fun build since there are only 115 parts to the total kit.

The Build
This kit was a first for me in many respects. It’s the first time I’ve built German Armor, the first time I applied zimmerit, and the first time I finished a kit with acrylics, and the first time I’ve worked with a metal model. Since I don’t build a lot of armor (that seems to be changing!), I spent a little time deciding what I wanted to do.

I didn’t plan to do a lot of extensive detailing. After looking over the kit components I decided that I would replace the kit grab handles since they were far too thick to look scale. I also planned to leave off a section of the track guards to expose the nicely detailed tracks.

Most pictures of Sturmtigers that I found showed them sporting zimmerit. The problem here is that the kit is metal. The only way to replicate the zimmerit would be putty. I actually experimented but didn’t get a suitable result. I decided to try something that I had seen in Fine Scale Modeler back in the 80’s. I was going to replicate the zimmerit with textured napkin. After selecting a suitable napkin from a local fine dining restaurant (Chinese), I experimented with applying it to the hull. I trimmed a section to fit my desired location. I softened the gray primer with liquid cement and lightly pressed the napkin into the softened primer. This tacked it in place and once dry I saturated the napkin with liquid CA. After the CA was dry I trimmed the napkin from around the detail items such as chassis tools.

With the zimmerit out of the way, the build proceeded pretty quickly. The fit of the kit is good, in my opinion. I found only one issue. The idler wheel sits out too far from the hull and thus the teeth on the tracks are in the wrong place. It’s a small issue and only aficionados will probably even notice. I replaced the grab holds with brass wire. I also filled the holes on the rear plate since they are extraneous. I also took the opportunity to drill out the ammo winch so that I could use thread to replicate a cable. The thread was connected to a strip of paper folded to look like the shell strap used to load the ammo.

I cut off the rear of the rocket shell so that I could put the shell in the barrel. I think it was a nice inclusion but two would have been better. I made a tow cable from some elastic string and spare ends taken from a Tiger 1 kit.

Painting
Gunze and Italeri color callouts are provided. There are some excellent color illustrations of the finished kit to help the modeler. I used Vallejo acrylics (middlestone for the base) to paint the Sturmtiger. This is the first time I’ve used Vallejo acrylics and I liked their coverage. It takes some practice to get used to them and I ended up spraying the camouflage much more widely than I had intended. I have since switched nozzles on my Aztec and that seems to have helped a great deal.

Decals
Decals for one vehicle are provided since there wasn’t a great deal of personalization done to the prototypes.

Final assembly
I applied a oil pin wash and some pastels for a light weathering

Conclusions
I know some people have complained about the metal hull, but I don’t think it’s that bad. There are really only two parts of this kit that might need to be ground off and those are the shovel and track tool on the left-hand side of the vehicle. I was really impressed by the casting quality of the metal parts but less so by the plastic parts. They are by no means bad but comparing them to the Revell AG Tiger showed them to be not quite as good. Not to mention the fact that there are plenty of Tiger detailing accessories on the market that fit this kit as well as any other. Overall this is, I think, a great value for less than $10.00. Taking into account the prices and quality, I think it’s obvious that 1/72nd is going to be giving it’s bigger scale brothers some stiff competition.

References
• Chamberlain, Peter and Doyle, Hilary L, “Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two”. New York: Arco Publishing Company, Inc., 1978.
• Chamberlain, Peter and Ellis, Chris, “British and American Tanks of World War Two”. New York: Arco Publishing, Inc., 1981.
• Grove, Eric. “World War II Tanks”. Stamford: Longmeadow Press, 1987.
• Schneider, Wolfgang. “Elefant – Jadgtiger – Sturmtiger: Rarities of the Tiger Family”. Pennsylvania:Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 1990.

Chris Crofoot Bio
I’m an IT Manager in the Chicagoland area. I served in the US Army in the late eighties and early nineties. I nurse an affection for off- beat models and scales of all kind. I’ve been modeling since I was a 5 when my father gave me a Matchbox Foland Gnat kit as a birthday present.

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