Panther Ausf. F
Vespid Models, 1/72 scale
Reviewed by Brett Green
After the Panther II project died, a more limited upgrade of the Panther was planned, centred around a re-designed turret. The Ausf F variant was intended for production in April 1945, but the end of war scuttled these plans.
The earliest known redesign of the turret was dated 7 November 1943 and featured a narrow gun mantlet behind a 120 mm (4.7 in) thick turret front plate. Another design drawing by Rheinmetall dated 1 March 1944 reduced the width of the turret front even further; this was the Turm-Panther (Schmale Blende) (Panther with narrow gun mantlet).
Several experimental Schmaltürme (literally: "narrow turrets") were built in 1944 with modified versions of the production Panther's 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 standard gun, which were given the designation of KwK 44/1. A few were captured and shipped back to the U.S. and Britain. One badly damaged turret is on display at the Bovington Tank Museum. It had been used as a post-war range target until its historical significance was recognised.
The Schmalturm had a much narrower front face of 120 mm (4.7 in) armour sloped at 20 degrees; side turret armour was increased to 60 mm (2.4 in) from 45 mm (1.8 in); roof turret armour increased to 40 mm (1.6 in) from 16 mm (0.63 in); and a bell shaped gun mantlet similar to that of the Tiger II was used. This increased armour protection also had a slight weight saving due to the overall smaller size of the turret.
The Schmalturm also addressed an inherent flaw with the earlier rounded mantlet in which incoming shots would ricochet off the lower half of the mantlet plate and go through the hull roof or into the turret ring.
The Panther Ausf F would have had the Schmalturm, with its better ballistic protection, and an extended front hull roof which was slightly thicker. The Ausf F's Schmalturm was to have a built-in stereoscopic rangefinder — using twin matching armoured blisters, one on each turret side, much like the Americans' post-war M47 Patton tank — and lower weight than the original turrets.
A number of Ausf F hulls were built at Daimler-Benz and Ruhrstahl-Hattingen steelworks; there is no evidence that any completed Ausf F saw service before the end of the war.*
Vespid has expanded their 1:72 scale Panther family to include the almost-produced Ausf. F with Schmalturm turret.
This new Panther F (with optional FG1250 Sperber Infrared Nightfighting Vision Scope) comprises 270 parts in grey coloured plastic, (many marked not for use), 70 brass photo-etched parts on two frets, two pink 3D printed parts, one turned metal brass gun barrel and decals for two marking options.
This is a hefty parts count for a small-scale model but in addition to the parts not for use, there are also quite a few options that will stay in the box.
In common with Vespid’s previous releases, surface textures are superb with a combination of recessed and raised structural features as appropriate. Moulding is perfect on my sample.
Detail is excellent too.
The brand new parts include the upper Schamlturm turret shell and unique Ausf. F parts on the new Sprue E.
A full set of late production steel road wheels is included in this release too.
Parts breakdown is conventional. The lower hull is moulded in one piece including the inner lower hull sides. Swing arms are separate pieces and keyed to ensure the correct alignment.
Link and length tracks are included. Individual links are supplied to wrap around the drive sprockets and idler wheels, with long top and bottom runs and a few short runs to complete the tracks. Track link detail is great.
A single style of one-piece upper hull is supplied. This represents the late-war raised crew compartment heater housing. The driver’s and radio operator’s hatches are moulded as separate parts. They may be posed open or closed. Vision blocks, the travel lock and the circular machine gun mantlet are all separate parts. The front mudguards are moulded in place.
Photo-etched mesh is supplied for the engine deck vents, including a fan and an additional rim for the raised heater housing.
Two styles of exhaust are provided – one standard and one with the bulky flame suppressor.
Several styles of rear hull stowage boxes are offered on the sprues.
A full complement of on-vehicle equipment and spare track links is supplied. The tow cables are impressively thin and crisply detailed, but you will need to take care when you are removing these parts from the sprues.
Two side skirt options are offered - full-length single plastic part moulded with all five standard skirts sections for each side and individual photo-etched standard sections so you can choose to use all or just some of the skirts.
The turret hatch is a separate part that may also be posed open or closed.
A lovely turned brass gun barrel is provided as an alternative to the kit’s plastic part.
A pink 3D printed FG1250 Sperber Infrared Nightfighting Vision Scope is also included. This is designed to be attached to the turret cupola. The secondary sight often seen in front of the driver’s hatch is not supplied.
The gun travel lock may be posed raised with the chain lock holding the barrel in place, or lowered onto the upper hull.
The turret will rotate and the gun will elevate and depress once the model is assembled.
Markings are supplied for three marking options – but as the vehicle never saw front line service you can really please yourself.
The decals are nicely printed and in register.
Vespid Models’ 1:72 scale Panther Ausf. F continues this company's rich traditional of high quality and fidelity.
There is hardly any compromise in detail despite the small scale of this model.
Of course, this results in an inevitable buildability trade-off. There are a number of tiny plastic and photo-etched parts in the box and the parts count would be more typical of a 1:35 scale kit, so the Vespid Panther will be best suited to an experienced modeller.
*Historical text adapted from Wikipedia
Thanks to Vespid for the sample
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