Jagdpanzer 38(t) «Hetzer» Tank Destroyer
ESCI 1:72 Scale Vehicle Review
Jagdpanzer Hetzer (literally Chaser) was a fast, well armed, and adequately armoured tank destroyer variant based on the reliable CKD/Praga TNHP light tank. The Wehrmacht captured a great number of these vehicles during the annexation of Czechoslovakia, and re-designated them Pz.Kpfw. 38 (t) in German service. Pz.Kpfw. 38 (t) was found to be so reliable that the Praga factory was ordered to continue to produce it with only minor modifications. Pz.Kpfw. 38 (t) participated in the invasion of France in 1940, but its 47 mm gun proved inadequate against the well armoured T-34, KV-1, and KV-2 tanks which surprised the Wehrmacht only a year later, during the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
Obsolete as a tank, the 38 (t) chassis continued to serve as a Geschützwagen (Gun Carrier). It became the basis for a number of self-propelled gun and howitzer conversions, like the Panzerjäger Marder III, the Bison 15 cm self-propelled howitzer, the Flakpanzer 38 (t), and the Hetzer. The Czech Hetzers remained in production even after the war, they were exported to Switzerland, and Sweden.
Jagdpanzer 38 (t) Hetzer and 2 Crew
- Type: Tank Destroyer
- Length: 4.87 m (6.27 m overall)
- Width: 2.63 m
- Height: 2.17 m
- Weight: 16 000 kg
- Speed: 42 km/h
- Armament: 7.5 cm PaK 39 L/48 + MG
- Crew: Commander, Driver, Gunner, Loader
- Deployment: May 1944 – May 1945
Scale model with superb detail. Weld seems, rivets, hinges, and armour plates are well defined. Hull and chassis fit together very nicely, no filling was required. Road wheels and sprockets had a very tight fit, which can be fixed by scraping the mould lines off the pegs.
The Hetzer is compatible with 1:72 scale, although the chassis scales out 98 mm longer than it should be.
Tracks consist of plastic links, 27 parts per side, of which 21 are individual track links and the remaining 6 are larger track segments. Assembly was surprisingly easy, and the result looks much more realistic than comparable rubber track. It’s important to mount the track correctly, not backwards. Track links have an open and a flush end which is important to differentiate. Starting with part № 1, hook the flush end into the top of the drive sprocket, and glue the open end to the return roller. Continue laying individual track links around the drive sprocket, 8 pieces, with their open ends facing up. The rest should be easy, provided that the proper facing of track links is maintained at all times. Running gear and chassis consist of 82 parts, and they took 80 minutes to assemble. The work was actually a lot of fun, because the sprockets and road wheels took the track very well. If you have never tried plastic track before, the Hetzer is likely to get you hooked on it. Plastic track puts no strain on any part of the running gear, and it may be mounted on the vehicle immediately, without the risk of bending the sprockets.
Compatible with Hasegawa, Italeri, Revell, and CDC.
The tracks are a little too long. The Hetzer ran on two tracks with 98 links each, the model uses 107 links. Accordingly, the model has 82 mm more track on the ground than the original, the chassis is 98 mm longer. Vehicle width, height, and track gauge are scaled correctly.
The Hetzer had two return rollers, but the model only has one. This is not a noticeable problem, because the track skirts hide the second roller completely.
Crew figures do not fit into their hatches. The remotely controlled machine gun overlaps with the commanders hatch, and it will be difficult to fit the man in there as well. The gunner’s hatch is very narrow, and the figure would have to be taken in at the waist to fit. An alternative is to mount the gunner’s periscope in his partially open hatch.
The superstructure required as much time to build as the running gear and chassis, even though it consists of only 33 parts. Much time was lost studying the assembly instructions. Part № 3 had to be mounted on the superstructure, but it was not on the superstructure sprue when its time came. A lost part?! Upon inspection of the printed sprue inventory it became clear that № 3 had already been used, it was one of the chassis side walls. A mislabled part then? In the drawing, № 3 looked like a hatch cover or grating, but nothing on the sprue resembled it. To make a long story short, it turned out that № 3 comes from the track sprue. Duplicate part numbers in a model kit are not a good idea, especially when the required part cannot be easily identified in the drawing. Once the mystery surrounding № 3 had been resolved, it was obvious that № 31 (track link holder) had to be attached over it, although the drawing would have you place it next to № 3. Finally, part № 17 (shovel) cannot be attached where the drawing shows it, the part belongs further to the rear of the Hetzer, underneath the antenna. This is a great kit, but it deserves better instructions.
When all parts are fitted on the superstructure, one hole remains. The photo on the box covers shows an antenna mounted there. Stretched sprue makes a convincing, but very fragile antenna. A bristle cut from a paintbrush is a more durable alternative, but it is more irregular in shape, and very difficult to keep straight.
The manual includes four sketches of the elaborate camouflage pattern used on the vehicle. Unfortunately, the sketches are misprinted, two of the colours are run together. The third colour of the pattern is shown in white, and its contours can be followed. Unfortunately, the colour reference is duplicated, suggesting that the white areas be painted in Light Olive and Middlestone. One or the other may be correct. The drawings are also intended to facilitate decal placement. The position of decal B cannot be located.
The manual recommends Humbrol 67 »Tank Grey« as one of three colours to be used for the camouflage pattern. The drawing is virtually useless, but the box cover shows the Hetzer in ambush pattern, using dark yellow, olive green, and red brown, not panzergrey.
If the 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 had been included, either of the two Hetzer variants could have been built, adding value to the kit, and encouraging modellers to buy the kit twice.
- German Army, May 1944 – May 1945
- Hungarian Army, October 1944 – May 1945
- Swiss Army
- Swedish Army
- Jagdpanzer 38 (t) mit 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 (late version)
- Jagdpanzer 38 (t) (Fl), Flamethrower, December 1944 – May 1945
- Funcken, L. & F.: L’Uniforme et les Armes des Soldats de la Guerre 1939–1945, p. 89
Jagdpanzer Hetzer was a successful tank hunter, a cheap expedient, mounting a powerful gun on a readily available chassis. The Hetzer replaced the Marder III, based on the same 38 (t) chassis, but which offered its crew much less protection. Its compact design, and the extremely sloped armour plate give the Hetzer a very futuristic look. The ESCI kit represents it very well, and it can be painted in a variety of very attractive camouflage patterns. Wargamers will want at least a platoon of these important vehicles.