Dragon 1/35 SdKfz 184 Elefant w/Zimmerit
|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
We all know that a Ferdinand/Elefant is a Tiger chassis with a modified 88mm cannon so here is a brief on its combat history. All but two of the 91 available Ferdinands were put to use in the Battle of Kursk, the first combat the Ferdinand saw. Although they destroyed many Russian tanks, they performed quite poorly in other respects. Within the first four days nearly half of the vehicles were out of service, mostly due to technical problems and mine damage to tracks and suspensions. Actual combat losses to direct Soviet action were very low as the Ferdinand's very thick armor protected it from almost all Soviet anti tank weaponry. However, at this point in its development the Ferdinand lacked a machine gun or any secondary armament, making it vulnerable to attack by infantry. Most total losses of the Ferdinand occurred during the Soviet counter-offensive after the Kursk offensive, many damaged Ferdinands had to be abandoned as they were too heavy to tow and others were lost to mechanical breakdown during the retreat. The surviving vehicles saw further limited action on the Dniepr front during late 1943.
At this point they were recalled and modified at the works in Austria and received the name Elefant. While the modifications improved the vehicles, some problems could never be fully fixed. In 1944 the Elefants served on the Italian front but were rendered rather ineffective, as their weight of nearly 70 tons did not allow them to use most Italian roads and bridges. Due to a permanent lack of spare parts most of the units were not destroyed in battle, but abandoned and blown up by their own crews. One company of Ferdinands saw action during the Soviets' January 1945 Vistula-Oder Offensive in Poland, and the very last surviving vehicles were in combat at Zossen during the Battle of Berlin.
In terms of kills per loss, the Ferdinand/Elefant might well have been the most successful tank destroyer employed during the war, reaching an average ratio of approximately 10:1. This impressive ratio was primarily due to its extreme firepower / protection ratio, which gave it an enormous advantage when used in a defensive role. However, poor mobility and mechanical unreliability greatly diminished its offensive capability.
As stated in the history, Ferdinands that were modified were called Elefants and the most visual modification was the addition of a bow machine gun. Dragon's kit takes most of the goodies from their earlier Premium Edition kit, adds to it an aluminum gun barrel, a bunch of newly molded parts and their great one piece DS tracks. This reduces the parts count down to a bit more than 300 parts. In addition, Dragon's superbly done Zimmerit molding saves a great deal of time and effort by the modeler as Zimmerit is tedious to apply by standard modeling methods.
Now I could be mistaken on this, but it seems from the latest batch of Dragon and Cyber-hobby kits that there is a tendency to lean more towards making the kits a bit less time consuming to build. The inclusion of the one piece DS tracks in a number of kits that previously had more complex track systems points to this. The kit also has a reasonable amount of photo etch and the sheet provides numerous detail bits. In many cases, these etched bit replace extant plastic pieces, so the option is there for the builder if he wants it. The kit also includes metal tow hooks as has chain to attach to the pistol ports if one wants to show those open. The usual wire section is included for a tow cable.
Instructions are typical of Dragon kits in that the illustrations are well done with both Gunze and Model Master paint references. Optional bits are shown as are any modifications needed (such as those needed to install the aluminum gun barrel). Elefants were minimally marked with little more than insignia and in some cases, tactical numbers. The painting diagrams provide markings for five vehicles as shown below.
As Zimmerit was a 1944 addition, you have the first two vehicles from 3/s.PzJgAbt 653 in Poland during 1944 and can be identified by having tactical numbers , the next one with 1./s.PzJgAbt 653 in Italy during 1944 and the last two with s.PzJgAbt 614 in Poland during 1945. These latter two have whitewash on them.
So here is another fine addition to Dragon's line of Zimmerit encrusted armored vehicles. This series has been selling quite well as I've noticed them selling out rather quickly from the various on-line stores and the local shop. Can't blame folks, really, as the Zimmerit adds quite a bit to the texture of the overall model and having it molded in place and correctly done is a real bonus.
My thanks to www.dragonmodelsusa.com for the preview kit. Get yours today at your LHS or on-line retailer while you still can.
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