1:72 SdKfz. 181 Jagdpanzer VI "Keiler"; 2nd Company, Panzerjägerabteilung 512, Ruhrgebiet region, February 1945 (Whif/Trumpeter kit conversion)
+++ DISCLAIMER +++
Nothing you see here is real, even though the conversion or the presented background story might be based on historical facts. BEWARE!
The Tiger I was a German heavy tank of World War II deployed from 1942 in Africa and Europe usually in independent heavy tank battalions. Its final designation was Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E often shortened to Tiger. The Tiger I gave the Wehrmacht its first armored fighting vehicle that mounted the KwK 36 88-mm gun. Production lasted from August 1942 until August 1944, but production phased out in favor of the Tiger II.
The Tiger differed from earlier German tanks principally in its design philosophy. Its predecessors balanced mobility, armor and firepower, but were sometimes outgunned by their opponents. The Tiger I represented a new approach that emphasized firepower and armor. While heavy, this tank was not slower than the best of its opponents.
Although the general design and layout were broadly similar to the previous medium tank, the Panzer IV, the Tiger weighed more than twice as much – roundabout 50 tons. This was due to its substantially thicker armor, the larger main gun, greater volume of fuel and ammunition storage, larger engine, and more solidly built transmission and suspension.
Among the few variants of the Tiger were the BergeTiger recovery vehicle, a demolition carrier version of the Tiger I without a main gun and a heavily armored self-propelled rocket projector, today commonly known as Sturmtiger, and a self-propelled tank destroyer, the Jagdpanzer VI “Keiler”.
The latter was a response from Krupp to a request made by the Army General Staff in early 1942 to mount a 128 mm gun on a self-propelled, armored chassis. The Tiger chassis appeared to be the only available basis for such a carrier, so the Jagdpanzer VI was a logical extension of the creation of Jagdpanzer designs from combat tank designs, such as the Jagdpanther from the Panther tank.
Like the Sturmtiger, the Jagdpanzer VI was based on the late model Tiger I, keeping its hull, engine and suspension. The front of the Tiger's superstructure was removed to make room for the new fixed casemate-style fighting compartment housing a 128 mm PaK 44 L/55 cannon. The gun was fed with two-piece ammunition, the projectile and cartridge making up separate pieces. Because of this, the gun could be fired using three different sized propellant charges, a light, medium and heavy charge. The light and medium charges were only used when the gun was fulfilling an artillery piece role, where they would launch the ~28 kg projectiles to a muzzle velocity of 845 m/s and 880 m/s respectively. The heavy charge (which itself weighed ~15 kg) was used when the gun was fulfilling its intended role as an anti-tank gun, where it fired a 28.3 kg APCBC-HE projectile (PzGr.43) at a muzzle velocity of 950 m/s. With the heavy charge, and using the PzGr.43 projectile, the Pak 44 was capable of penetrating just over 200 millimetres (7.9 in) of 30 degree sloped armor at 1000 meters, and 148 millimetres (5.8 in) at 2,000 metres (2,200 yd) range
The main gun mount had a limited traverse of only 10 degrees; the entire vehicle had to be turned to aim outside that narrow field of fire. In order to withstand any frontal attack, the sloped front was 150mm thick and angled at 47°, offering formidable protection. Even the side walls of the large upper structure were 62mm thick and able to withstand angled hits.
Through the heavy gun and extra armor the overall weight rose from the Tiger I’s 60 to 68 tonnes. But this was regarded as acceptable since the Jagdpanzer VI would rather be employed in defensive/static tactics and less in a “hit and run” manner.
The first prototype, constructed from a recovered and revamped Tiger I chassis, was ready and presented in October 1943. Delivery of the first hulls would occur in December 1943, with the first three pre-production Jagdpanzer VIs completed by Alkett by 20 February 1944.
Due to delays, serial production did not start before April 1944, and the lack of new Tiger chassis led to the modification of recovered combat tanks. 12 superstructures and weapons for the Jagdpanzer VI had already been prepared, and the first production Jagdpanzer VIs were completed by Alkett in June 1944. The original order comprised 200 vehicles, but this was not fulfilled: Until the end of 1944, only 38 more Jagdpanzer VI were completed and delivered to units at the Western and Eastern front, where they served under the unofficial name “Keiler” (Wild Boar) to the end of the war.
On the production lines the Jagdpanzer VI was soon replaced by the even heavier Jagdtiger, a derivative of the Panzer VII “Königstiger” battle tank. The Jagdpanzer VI, much like its successor, suffered from a variety of mechanical and technical problems due to its immense weight and under-powered engine. The vehicle had frequent breakdowns; ultimately more Jagdpanzer VI were lost to mechanical problems or lack of fuel than to enemy action.
Crew: Six (commander, gunner, 2x loader, driver, radio operator/bow machine-gunner)
Weight: 68 tonnes (75 short tons; 67 long tons)
Length: 6.316 m (20 ft 8.7 in) hull; 7.02 metres (23 ft 0 in) with gun
Width: 3.57 m (11 ft 9 in)
Height: 2.84 metres (9 ft 4 in) w/o AA machine gun
Ground clearance: 0.47 m (1 ft 7 in)
Fuel capacity: 540 l (140 US gal) including reserve
28 –150 mm (1.1 – 5.9 in)
- Maximum, road: 39 km/h (24 mph)
- Sustained, road: 26 km/h (16 mph)
- Cross country: 16 km/h (10 mph)
Operational range: 110–195 km (68–121 mi)
Power/weight: 10.77 PS/tonne
V-12, water-cooled Maybach HL230P45 engine with 700 PS (690 hp, 515 kW)
Maybach-Olvar hydraulically controlled semi-automatic pre-selector eight-speed gearbox
1× 12,8 cm 12.8 cm Pak 44 with 45 rounds
2× 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34; one in the front bow and provision for an
AA machine gun on the commander’s cupola (total 2.500 rounds)
The kit and its assembly:
Another German whif tank, and this one was inspired by the typical German procedure to build a tank destroyer variant from current combat types with turrets, but with a hull-mounted, bigger gun. While there was the Elefant/Ferdinand tank destroyer, based on the surplus Tiger I Porsche chassis and armed with the powerful 8.8cm Pak 43/2 L/71, and the "Sturer Emil" (12.8 cm Selbstfahrlafette L/61) self-propelled anti-tank gun, why not combine both?
A potential basis was already available, both in real life and in kit form: the Sturmtiger, of which two Trumpeter kits are available in 1:72.
The kit was mostly built OOB, fit is very good except for the hull front where you recognize that it’s basically a Tiger I kit with different parts – a gap had to be closed with putty, but the rest went together smoothly. Mounting all those wheels (32!) and the tight, wide track was a bit tricky, though.
A personal addition is the commander’s cupola, taken from a Panther turret, the large opening on the roof for the Sturmtiger’s large mortar rounds was sanded away and replaced by a smaller door. The original short mortar barrel was replaced with a white metal 12.8cm barrel for a Jagdtiger. In order to fit it onto the OOB base, and adapter had to be scratched from styrene tubes, and an additional, upper shield for the mantlet was added.
Painting and markings:
I wanted something simple, and went for a winter camouflage – seen on a Tiger I. The scheme consists of a base in Sandgelb (I used RAL 8000, today Grünbraun, which is a bit darker and actually a German WWII desert color, Gelbbraun, used 1941 in North Africa) over which simple white horizontal stripes were painted manually. The basic tone was applied from a rattle can, the stripes painted with a brush.
On top of that a dark brown acrylic weathering wash (an irregular mix of black and Raw Sienna) was applied, the few decals added and protected with matt varnish, and then a coat of snow was applied.
As a side note: the black white rings on the gun barrel are a detail taken over from German Tiger I crews: these are kill markers, created from decals that are original intended to be wrapped around USN arrester hooks… ;)
Simulating snow is always tricky, esp. at small scales. If you use paint, it just looks like that, because the snow coat’s depth is missing. You also have to make sure that the coat primarily covers the upper/horizontal surfaces, and you need a certain “unevenness” for a good impression.
My favorite method and material is white tile grout. It is water-based, fade-resistant (plaster turns yellow over time) and can be applied just like real snow flakes. Furthermore you can mix it with water for a more or less stable slush that can be applied to mudguards, wheels or other sections that accumulate snow and slobber.
Application is easy: at first I stained the lower hull and the chassis section with tile grout slush. After thorough drying the kit was wetted with low surface tension water, gently sprayed onto it. The dry tile grout is then dusted onto the kit with the help of an improvised “shaker”: a glass covered with a nylon stocking. This “tool” offers a fine mesh that even can be adjusted, depending how tight you span it over the glass – the less tension, the finer the tile grout flakes are, and the less material you rinse over the object. It also prevents lumps and clusters of tile grout from landing on the kit.
I tried to apply the flakes evenly all over the kit directly from above, until a closed blanket of snow covered the upper hull. I also made sure that enough tile grout flakes would end on the sloped side walls. An uneven “smeared” or slumped look was welcome – actually, the whole snow coat was created through gravity with no manual interference. You can easily over-do and –manipulate the finish.
While still wet (some of the dark brown wash became liquid again, mixing with the white tile grout and creating a muddy, if not rusty look in certain areas) the snow was stabilized with hair spray. While wet, the engine’s cooling openings were emphasized with a little bit if black ink. Later, when everything had dried thoroughly, a coat of acrylic matt varnish from the rattle can fixed the coat of fake snow further. Actually, only little of the original paint scheme can be made out, but I kept the finish just the way it turned out.
The Jagdpanzer VI turned out well, even though I had to fight with the tight tracks. And I am amazed how Russian it looks, through the long gun barrel?
Anyway, the winter finish sets the kit apart from standard liveries, even though taking pictures took some extra effort because the winter bases had to be prepared accordingly. One of these, for instance, is a generic stock piece from a tabletop game, pimped with some higher grass and bushes, some murky umbra color to tone the bright grass fibers down and then covered under a coat of snow.