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Cold War West German Tank Destroyers

Kanonenjagdpanzer 90

West Germany Western Germany (1965)
Tank-hunter, 770 built

Development

By 1960, the M47 Patton old 90 mm was still a potent weapon. Pending replacement in the Bundeswehr, it was decided to reuse it in German-made tank-hunters. General design tended to be close to the very successful ww2 era Jagdpanzer IV. Specifications were made and transmitted to three manufacturers, the German Hanomag and Henschel and Swiss MOWAG which produced prototypes. After trials, only Hanomag and Henschel were retained for pre-production.
KjJgPz 4-5 better roof view
They built another pair of prototypes, equipped with the German-built Rheinmetall BK 90/L40, derived from the US patented antitank gun. Development goes on until 1965 when the Kanonenjagdpanzer (sometimes followed by 4 5 or “90”), also called Jagdpanzer Kanone 90, was accepted for service in the Bundeswehr.

Design

Basically, the KnJgPz-90 was indeed closely based on the wartime tank-hunter, which was derived from the Panzer IV. However, this was only superficially as the sloped armor was mostly copied from it. Everything else, from the chassis, suspensions, engine and transmission, armament and targeting devices, fire control, etc. were genuine. The hull was longer, but narrower and lighter than the original vehicle. The frontal armor was not 80 but 50 mm in thickness (still around a 80 mm equivalent) also on the sides, and 10 mm on the bottom and roof, engine deck and rear plating. The mantlet allowed a 15° traverse and -8° to +15° elevation/depression.
KjJgPz 4-5 rear view
The hull upper armor was stepped on the rear engine compartment. The driver sat on the right, with a hatch above him, and there was a secondary periscope at the left of the gun. There was a secondary hatch behind the driver, and a commander cupola to the rear, left of the fighting compartment. The drivetrain consisted of five doubled-roadwheels independently sprung on torsion arms, with three return rollers, rear drive sprocket and front idler.
One machine-gun was coaxial in the mantlet, the other was externally mounted on the second hatch ring. The main gun carried 51 rounds 4000 were stored for both 7.62 mm machine-guns. The KnJgPz-90 was protected NBC and fitted with infrared vision and targeting system.

Production

The 770 order was placed between Henschel (385) and Hanomag (385) delivered between 1965 and 1967. The Belgian Army received 80 slightly modified Kanonenjagdpanzer in 1975, which served until the late 1980s.

The Kanonenjagdpanzer 90 in service

This vehicle was considered a success, due to its low profile and superior mobility, compared to the high profile of the M47/48 Patton series. However, by the time USSR unveiled its T-64 and later T-72, the KnJgPz-90 was considered obsolete. The manufacturers proposed it was up-gunned with the latest 105 mm, but in 1983 it was decided to convert 163 of these as Raketenjagdpanzer Jaguar 2 anti-tank guided missile carriers, firing TOW wire-guided missiles, far more effective.
These vehicles also received extra modifications like spaced and perforated armor. A few others were derived as Beobachtungspanzer (without the main gun) to guide mortar units. The regular vehicles were gradually phased and put in reserve. The last were in active commission with the Heimatschutztruppe by 1990.

Sources/Links

The Kanonenjagdpanzer on Wikipedia
Extra photos on Wikimedia
The Kanonenjagdpanzer on Jedsite

Jagdpanzerkanone 90 specifications

Dimensions 6,24 (8,75 oa) x 2,98 x 2,9 m (20ft6 x 9ft9 x 6ft1)
Total weight, battle ready 27.5 tons ( ibs)
Crew 4 (Driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion MTU MB-837 V8 diesel 29.4 l 500 hp (368 kW)
Suspension Independant torsion bars
Speed (road) 70 kph (43,5 mph)
Range 385 km (239 mi)
Armament Rheinmetall BK 90/L40 90mm
2 x 7.62mm MG3 machine guns
Armor 12.7 mm front and sides (0.5 in)
Total production 770 in 1965-67.
Kanonenjagdpanzer-90
Jagdpanzer Kanonen 90, 1970s.
2nd PzGadgBat 44 1980
2nd Panzerjägerbatallion 44, Göttingen 1980.
Beobachtungspanzer
Beobachtungspanzer 6/Panzergrenadierlehrbatallion 152, Schwarzenborn.
Raketenjagdpanzer Jaguar 1
Raketenjagdpanzer Jaguar 1, the HOT derivative.

Gallery

Belgian Hanomag KaJaPa at the Royal Military History Museum, Brussels
KjJgPz 4-5 bundesarchiv
KjJgPz 90 bundesarchiv

By David.B

Tank Encyclopedia's Creator, webmaster and illustrator since 2010.

7 replies on “Kanonenjagdpanzer 90”

The Raketenjagdpanzer you pictured is a Raketenjagdpanzer 2 Jaguar 1 armed with HOT missiles, and not a Raketenjagdpanzer 2 Jaguar 2 armed with TOW missiles.

Hello Aldan Ferrox,
We checked your claim, and have determined it to be correct. Funnily enough, the same illustration is correctly identified on the Raketenjagdpanzer 2 article.
Thank you!

Hello, Wilson!
Stronk German engineering! Or, actually, a typo on our part. It is actually a 29.4 l engine.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention, it has been corrected!

I want to share some of my experiences as a driver and commander of this type with you:

Driving it was the most fun, it did up to 80 km/h on roads and not much less cross country. Extremely low power to weight ratio, but as you can guess, no armor to speak of.

We were fighting from prepared, concealed positions, firing a few shots then going full speed reverse to the next prepared position.

Since I was stationed on the Netherlands border, there was not very much room for this kind of fighting. We were hoping for the Leo II to do its job in the Fulda gap, so we would not have to do ours….. God, to be 20 again…

So here are a few ramblings of an old tanker…

I will call it the tank because using Kanonenjagdpanzer all the time gets tedious….

Driving was the most fun. The drivers position can only be compared with that in a small sports car. Very low sitting position, legs stretched, small steering wheel (YES, no brake levers, a real wheel).

Turning cycle was directly dependent on the chosen gear. In first you could turn on a dime, literally. If you moved the wheel full to left or right one track would move forward, the other back, turning you on the spot.
You could also get the full speed reverse, but since the drivers vision to the back was exactly nil (I don`t count the mirrors which vibrated so much that you could only see light or dark).

The higher the gear the lower the turn radius, so that you would always gear down if you had to cut corners. Especially driving through towns was a nightmare (as in every tank) because cars and truck are extremely fragile seen from a tank drivers point of view, not to mention the beloved “throw the curbstone” game, a track can play…

When you press the accelerator at first nothing happens, then you hear a loud clang, when the wading valve of the exhaust is forcefully opened, and then some 30 liters of Mercedes Diesel show you the true meaning of torque.

Driving cross country is the purest joy of driving, I ever felt. It is so exhilarating that you have to do it to understand it. It’s a bit like in a speedboat, only overland. This tank is extremely fast. It throws earth like a snowplow if the consistency is right.

The only encounter of the third kind I had, was, when a MAN 6×6 truck tried to overtake me cross country – also beasts in their own way.
The combat aspects are less glaring, after all it’s only an old american anti tank gun (of M47 fame), that was already long in its teeth during my days. You could combat the older soviet tanks (T54-5, T-62) against the T-72 onward there was no chance. The ammo types were HEAT and HESH, no sub caliber ammo available. So any vehicle with Chobham or reactive armor was safe from our ministrations.

Also the low hull was a problem (as it was a boon when hiding), giving only a very low view position for the commander. His position was equipped with a 360 periscope with up to 8x magnification.

The gunner had NO gadgets whatsoever available, only a monocular with an ancient targeting system, no laser or similar toys. You had to measure the dimensions of an enemy tank via markings in the lens and calculate the range in your head – this tank was made long before the event of the electronic calculator…. we are talking early 60ies technology.

Funny renough my training made me an expert for WW2 tanks, because of the similar systems. Maybe the fact that the training of tank crews in Germany, had not really changed form those “other” days, did help, too. The “Zielansprache” has not changed a bit. “2 o`clock, enemy MBT, range 1.000 yards. 1 shot Quetschkopf (HESH) fire free” “Loaded” “Fire” clang. And then the loud howling noise from the tank commander who did forget to pull his left foot back, because the empty shell had a tendency to land exactly on the spot where the tip of the foot usually was.

Inside the tank you do not really hear the gun sound, because the interior is overpressured during firing, so that the fumes are blown out of the barrel, instead of polluting the interior.

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