Kit Review: Dragon Models Limited 1/35 Scale '39-'45 Series Kit No. 6775; Tauchpanzer III Ausf. H - Smart Kit; 587 parts (532 in grey styrene, 35 etc hed brass, 18 clear styrene, 2 DS Plastic track runs); pre-order price US$67.99 via Dragon USA Online
Advantages: another unique variant of early model Pzkw. III; alternate vers ion to the Ausf. F "Operation Seeloewe" kit
Disadvantages: kit come with DS tracks, which will disappoint a few modeler s
Rating: Highly Recommended
Recommendation: for all WWII German Panzer III fans
As noted in the review of the earlier "Tauchpanzer" kits, the Germans basi cally conceded that the tanks would sink, so their approach was to waterpro of the tank and fit it with a snorkel system and pressure relief exhaust so it could operate autonomously under water. For their invasion of England t hat was planned for late 1940 (after the pesky RAF had been eliminated) the Germans converted 168 Pzkw. III Ausf. F and G tanks to use this system; th ese were dubbed "Tauchpanzer" or diving tanks.
The system consisted of a number of seals to prevent water leakage into th e hull and a pressure relief exhaust fitting that prevented water backflow into the engine. A floating snorkel buoy was developed that was fitted with a rubber hose that could stretch up to 15 meters in length for air intake; to avoid taking in the exhaust gases which would bubble up and also to avo id problems with a high sea state there was an extended intake tube on top of the snorkel buoy, as well as a short radio antenna for communications. F or navigation purposes underwater a gyrocompass was fitted for the driver.
The tanks were to be driven off a ramp from a landing ship into the water and then driven to land, where the seals would be removed so the tanks coul d then join in combat. But after the cancellation of "Seeloewe" at the end of September 1940 the tanks were then converted to a simpler system to prov ide for limited water crossing capability of only about five meters for use in the invasion of Russia. The best known use of the vehicles was on 22 Ju ne 1941 when the modified Pzkw. III tanks of the 18th Panzer Division cross ed the Bug River.
This new kit now builds into the Ausf. H version of the Panzer III with th e wading kit and the early short 5 cm gun. It carries over most of the same components from the cyber-hobby F and "defrocked" G kits less the DS Plast ic seals and hoses.
As with all DML Panzer III kits the suspension begins with five of the ori ginal seven "mini-sprues" and three new ones provided for the early model " porthole" drivers and more complex idlers, plus newly molded shock absorber s.
The hull pan is one with the side hatches and other detail changes. It ret ains the full torsion bar suspension from the other kit and the detailed su spension components and muffler assembly. As with the earlier kits all hatc hes are separate with some interior details and can be positioned as the mo deler chooses. All engine deck ventilators are spaced and mounted on separa te frames to get the correct appearance and "lift" needed to give an accura te representation of the original. A completely new engine deck is provided for the early variants of the Pzkw. III with this kit.
The kit includes the rudiments of an interior, but unlike many Russian or Ukrainian kits the details they provide are highly accurate as far as they go. This should please the "after market boys" as there is more than enough room for a nice resin interior here and enough ports and hatches to see it . The gun follows most of the DML standard design concepts and faithfully r eplicates the internal mantlet as well as the rest of the small details of this petite weapon.
For the H model this kit does provide the early Pzkw. IV cupola as well as a different turret shell with the ventilator fan mount. It switches over f rom the 3.7 cm gun to the 5 cm gun but many of the early variants' parts ar e also included.
The kit comes with 36 cm DS Plastic track runs, and I keep strongly hintin g to DML that they should include both DS Plastic and "Magic Track" single- links as that would please the greater percentage of modelers (the "weekend ers" and the "accuracy buffs").
Technical consultants are Tom Cockle and Gary Edmundson.
As this kit covers the "defrocked tanks it provides for three finishing op tions: 2./Pz.Rgt. 35, Russia 1941 (panzer grey, white crosses, red bear, ch oice of yellow 2xx numbers); 3./Pz.Rgt. 7, 10th Panzer Division, Russia 1941 (panzer grey, white crosses, white rune, bison, white 544); 5.Pz.Rgt. 35, 4th Panzer Division, Russia 1941(panzer grey, white crosses, yellow 503). A sheet of Cartograf decals is provided.
Overall this is the last original design of the diving Panzer III and offe rs much more colorful markings.
Thanks to Freddie Leung for the review sample.