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Ra 43

RPM 1/35 Pz.Kpfw. TKS(p)/Ra 43 Polish Tankette w/Puppchen Build Review

By Ray Mehlberger

Date of Review February 2007 Manufacturer RPM
Subject Pz.Kpfw. TKS(p)/Ra 43 Polish Tankette w/Puppchen Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35041 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Interesting subject Cons Have to refer to parts tree drawings constantly to assemble model. Instructions not always clear and some ejector pin cups present to eliminate. Decals shatter
Skill Level Basic MSRP (USD) $15.98

 

 

Background

TKS: In 1929, the Polish Defense Ministry bought ten British Carden-Lloyd Mk. V-1’s to test. From the experience gained from extensive tests on these vehicles a new series of vehicles was developed in the form of prototypes: the TK-1 and the TK-2 in 1930. Basically the development work was carried out by Marczewskit, which incorporated Lloyd running gear and a modified fighting compartment.

The TK-2 emerged in 1931 as a result of further modifications and improvements. The fighting compartment was closed completely, culminating in the finished prototype for the series production of the TK-3. The total number of TK-3’s built is believed to be about 300. All were powered with a four cylinder Ford (40 PS) engine. These engines had to be specially imported to Poland. Later, an additional 18 vehicles were built and fitted with six cylinder (46 PS) 122-B Fiat engines. These engines were manufactured under license in Poland and know as the TKF.

Beginning in 1933, additional developments were made to the TK-3 series. The fighting compartment was improved, and the armour was up-graded to 10mm. The power plant was a license built version of the Fiat 122 was again used. It was now given the designation Pz inz. 367. This was the final configuration for the TKS with series production starting in 1934. Two final production versions went into operational service, both types having approximately 250 examples of each manufactured. Operational armament consisted of either a 7.92mm Hotchkiss machine-gun W25, mounted besides the driver, or a 20mm cannon FK-A wz. 38 of Polish origin.

Various attempts were made to upgrade the armament using a 47mm wz. 25 and a 37mm cannon. These experimental types became known as the TKD and never reached series production. However, the basic chassis of the TK-3/TKS “tankette” formed the basis for a towing tractor for the artillery, the C2P, and used extensively to tow the 40mm Flak Bofors gun.

At the outbreak of WWII, 574 TK-3/TKS’s in all versions were in operation. The majority served along side of armor and cavalry units for reconnaissance and infantry support roles. Following the fall of Poland, the German Wehrmacht used a number of captured TK-3/TKS’s in various roles until 1944. It is believed that a few TK-3/TKS’s were delivered to Hungary in 1939 shortly before the beginning of hostilities.

Puppchen: In 1944 the Anhaltisch/Westfalische Sprengstoff AG of Reindorf (also known as WASAG), submitted a design for the German Army requirement for a light anti-tank gun. This particular design, by Dr. Erich Von Holt, was original in its approach. The idea was to use a “Raketen Panzerbuchse 54”, better known as an “Ofenruhr” or “Stove Pipe”. Similar to the American 2.36 inch Bazooka. The tube, unlike a pipe, had a simple sliding breach block, which, when closed, sealed the rear of the weapon. This gave the specially prepared 88mm hollow charged rocket a greater velocity and range than the standard Panzerbuchse 54, which had a velocity of 110 meters/second and a maximum range of about 150 meters. The Raketenwerfer 43 “Puppchen” (doll), had a considerably better performance with a improved muzzle velocity of 180 meters/second and an effective range of 700 meters.

The ring stabilized 88mm rocket projectile was competent to perform admirably along side its conventional cousin in penetrating armor plate up to 160mm thick with the advantage of a single round only weighing 2.60 kg.

About 1,000 “Puppchens” were believed to have been manufactured. The accuracy and the high performance of the weapon was quickly learned by the OKH Oberkommando des Heers, (Army High Command) on July 1st, 1944 stating that “The special badge awarded for single-handed destruction of an enemy was not applicable when a Puppchen was used in its destruction”. So good was this weapon.

The advantage of the Puppchen, with the breach loading arrangement, presented several disadvantages over conventional light anti-tank weapons. A relatively high recoil required the weapon to be mounted on a wheeled box section carriage which increased its weight considerably. However, as a mobile weapon it proved itself to be relatively easy to maneuver and bring into action quickly. The Puppchen could be fired with or with the wheels being mounted. On the Russian Front it was often mounted on skis (like the configuration of this kit).

The Kit

The kit comes in a very blousy end-opening type box. It could have been packed into something smaller. This box is kind of flimsy cardboard also.

The box art shows a TKS in German markings with a Puppchen hooked up behind it. It has apparently been abandoned by the Germans in a village. Two American soldiers are examining it. Their M2A1 halftrack truck is parked in the background. Neat box art.

The back of the box shows the box arts of four kits in the Mirage brand line. I assume that RPM and Mirage are the same outfit, as they both use the same logo: a hand holding a aircraft, tank and ship.

This tells me that molds are really being passed around between Tom Modellbau, RPM and Mirage, as they all sell the same kits at times.

Inside the box are two small white parts trees, two large white parts trees and one large medium gray tree. The small decal and the instructions complete the kits contents. All the parts trees and the decal are cello-bagged.

The two small, identical, white trees hold: the link and length type tracks for the TKS, also it’s suspension parts, road wheels, return rollers, drive sprockets, leaf springs etc. (45 parts per tree) This tree is identical to the one in the Tom Modellbau kit of the TKS.

The two large, identical, white trees hold all the parts for the Ra 43 “Puppchen”. This tree varies from the one in the Tom Modellbau kit of the Puppchen. It has more parts on it. These new parts appear to be the roadwheels an alternate shield, four small wheels (I don’t know where these would ever go on a Puppchen?), some tear-drop shaped parts and some hub caps. You get two rocket rounds. These new parts were chopped off the similar tree in the Tom kit at the factory. (52 parts per tree).

The large gray tree holds: the hull bottom, sides, roof, hatches, muffler assembly, 20mm cannon, a shovel, aerial etc. (25 parts) This parts tree is identical to the one in the Tom Modellbau kit of the TKS with 20mm cannon. However, Tom cut their tree in two and made two trees out of it.

The tiny decal holds some German national crosses, the number 17, a data plate and a serial number that goes on the shield of the Puppchen and some stencil marks to go on the rocket rounds.

Accuracy? I’ll leave that to the millimeter counters out there.

This combination kit is well molded with good detail. No flash was found on parts and some mold push out pin marks are present. This is especially true on the face side of the shield for the Puppchen.

I recommend this kit over buying the vehicle and rocket launcher as separate kits. You get decals this time and some decent placement drawings. My only gripe is the absence of any crew figures or interior parts. Also, having to refer to parts tree drawings constantly to identify part numbers in the assembly steps is not too keen.

Construction

Ra 43 In step I, I left the return rollers unglued and trapped between the side rails. This is so I could paint this assembly, later, the base color and then rotate the wheels to do the tire color.

The same thing was done with step II on the bogies and road wheels. These were added to the lower side rails in step III.

Step IV is the assembly of the lower hull, in three parts: sides and bottom. The drive sprockets were fitted and were supposed to be retained with a washer, inside the hull. However, some big dummy I know forget the washers, so I just glued the drive sprockets solid, later, after attaching the tracks.. For now, they were left to turn. This step offers the first option. You can do the front of the fighting compartment with either a round plate, after sawing off the base of what would have been a version with a 20mm (gun not provided in this kit) or add a plate that has a vision flap above a round hole. I used this second option. I cut part no. 21 in two, so I could fit this new plate. I added a DML German MG42 machine-gun to this hole, that I had in my spare parts box, after cutting off the end of it from the trigger back, using just the forward barrel. The open hole just begged for this I thought.

Step V added the nose plate, with its hatch handles and tow hooks, the rear engine deck (also with hatch handles and tow hooks) and the return roller assembly and the road wheels assemblies.

Strangely, the instructions omit a step VI and goes on to step VII.

Ra 43 Step VII is the assembly of the upper fighting compartment. The doors in the roof of it can be posed open or closed. I buttoned mine up, as there is no interior parts to be seen. The front of the fighting compartment (modified earlier) is added, with a shovel and pry bar added to the right side of it. Two headlights and side vision flaps are added now too.

Step VIII is the assembly of the muffler, engine air intake box, tail-light, tow bracket, and a spare road wheel. The instructions say to use a road wheel (part 42) that is plain, like the ones on the ground. I opted to use a road wheel that has a “T” shaped bracket molded on it, that the instructions are telling me is excess. It made more sense to me that a spare wheel would have something that looked like visible means of support.

Step IX is the assembly of the link and length type tracks. I only did the individual ones around the idler wheels and drive sprockets. The rest were left off until after painting later. This step completes the assembly of the TKS.

Ra 43 With step X we begin to assemble the Puppchen. The gun base, axles and recoil ground spades are assembled. I found that the axles (parts no. 53) were a lousy fit. I had to enlarge the slots in the base rail (part no. 50) to accept both of them. These axles also had nasty sink-marks on one side. I sanded these off and things went together better. It was vague, on the instructions, just how the ground spades fitted. I turned the assemble over, and filled the bottom of the base rail with Apoxie Sculpt putty. I really love this stuff, as it has a long working time and you can smooth it with your fingers dipped in water, spit or alcohol…which saves a lot of sanding…or eliminates it. Some putty was needed under the spades too in a gap there.

Ra 43 Step XI offers another option in the kit. You can assemble the Puppchen with either wheels or skis. I went for the wheels. A half tube, molded on the top of the base rail was drilled out with a pin vice so it would accept the tow bar. The lift handle was added to the tow bar, a U shaped channel was attached to the upper ground spade part and two smaller handles glued into it’s groove. Some odd rounded triangle shaped parts were added to the bottom of each axle and some canister shaped parts added to the fronts of each axle.

Step XII adds some more turn handles to the side of the base rail and cleaning rods with their separate tie-down brackets.

Ra 43 Step XIII is the assembly of the two gun barrel halves and a breech plate. This did not go together well at the muzzle, leaving a gap there that needed some more Apoxie-Scupt and some shaping with needle files.

In Step XIV you assemble the gun to a flat plate and add the trunion, breech locking handle, sights and a round cylinder. The trunion need a lot of cleaning up with needle files.

In Step XV, the gun is added to the swivel cradle part, a turning handle for the swivel base is added and the gun shield. This is where I ran into trouble. The funnel shaped muzzle on the gun would not pass through the hole in the shield!! Nor would the breech plate at the back end. I cup off the funnel and re-attached it, after passing it through the hole in the shield. This shield has only one support rod, on one side to hold it. I had to drill a hole in the front of the swivel base part to accept the end of this rod. The other end of the rod is molded at a flat angle, so to get the shield tilted a bit right. It is a flimsy hold and will not stand a lot of heavy handling or it will easily break.

Ra 43 Ra 43

The kit contains two single-round ammo boxes but doesn't say where to put them. I mounted mine, one on each of the fenders. The rounds themselves were relegated to the spare parts box. You get two of them.

I painted my TKS and Puppchen with a base coat of Poly S Panzer yellow. The treads were painted with Tamiya German red brown and now the rest of the runs attached to the tank with CA. Road wheel tires were painted with a dark gray, instead of flat black, which I think makes things look too factory fresh. A light wash of chocolate brown was added and Poly S rust painted on the muffler. I used a black wash on the intake screen and louvers on the engine deck , some graphite here and there on edges and some light silver RUB-N-BUFF cream.

The decals shattered when trying to remove them from their backing sheet. I was only able to salvage the data plate that goes on the back of the Puppchen’s shield. I got some aircraft German national crosses off a sheet in my spares box and cut the white edges off the crosses, leaving only the center black. I coated the areas on the side of the fighting compartment with some FUTURE acrylic floor wax, added the crosses and then Testor dull-coated over them to seal them in. The German MG 42 machine gun barrel was painted with Tamiya gun metal and given a black wash and a little RUB-N-BUFF dry brush.

I fastened the TKS and Puppchen together and put both on a display board with CA.

Ra 43 Ra 43 Ra 43 Ra 43

Conclusions

It was quite a bit of work to complete this small model. I would only suggest it to modelers that have a few armor models under their belts and are proficient at working with small parts and fixing things that aren’t quite right. I was surprised that the link and length type tracks went together with only one hitch. I had to chop two links off parts no. 47, which are the lengths of track that go from the rear road wheel to the return rollers, as they were too long after attaching all the other sections.

This model now travels with me soon to an IPMS contest. Hope it does well there.

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