When the West German Army, known as the Bundeswehr, was reformed, the decision was made to develop a new generation of Jagdpanzers. As the founding officers of the Bundeswehr had roots within the old Wehrmacht of the Second World War, it is perhaps no surprise that the concepts of Jagdpanzer and Sturmgeschütz were revived. As the concepts of these vehicles had already started to merge together into a single armored casemated support and tank destroying vehicle, the upcoming Kanonenjagdpanzers ended up much in the same way.
Development of the new Jagdpanzers began in 1957. The Swiss designed HS 30 Infantry Fighting Vehicle was selected to be converted. The reason was likely because the Germans planned to operate 10,000 of these IFVs and commonality of hulls would have been quite useful. What was designated as the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 performed abysmally in trials, however, with its very conversion from an IFV causing most of the issues. While the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 would not be successful, it did lay out the path for the future Kanonenjagdpanzers.
An interesting detail is the designation of the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 (Literally Cannon tank hunter). It is referred to officially as Jagdpanzer 1-3, but it also frequently receives the name Kanonenjagdpanzer HS 30 or Jagdpanzer Kanone HS 30 (Tank hunter cannon). The same also counts for the Jagdpanzer 4-5, which is frequently referred to as just Kanonenjagdpanzer. The reason for this is the development of the ATGM armed Jagdpanzers, which were also known as Jagdpanzers (like the Jagdpanzer 3-3), but also referred to as Raketejagdpanzer or Jagdpanzer Rakete (Missile tank hunter or Tank hunter missile).
There does not seem to have been a definitive convention on if Kanonen should come before or after Jagdpanzer, as the manuals refer to Kanonenjagdpanzers and the manufacturing plates inside refer to them as Jagdpanzer Kanone. The manuals actually list multiple designations for the Kanonenjagdpanzer which went into service, namely: Kanonenjagdpanzer and Panzer, Jagd-, Vollkette mit Kanonen 90 mm, and JPZ 4-5 (Cannon tank hunter and Tank, Hunter-, Tracked with 90 mm Cannon, and JPZ 4-5). It mainly seems that Jagdpanzer 4-5 was used as part of the official designation and that Kanonenjagdpanzer was used to make it easier to keep track of the different Jagdpanzers. The 1-3 and the 4-5 are type designations for specific vehicles.
The important part is that both the Rakete and the Kanone types were Jagdpanzers and that Rakete and Kanone were simply used to distinguish between the armaments. In this article, Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 will be used, as it will make it clearer that this is about the cannon armed vehicle. Please keep in mind that Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 was not the official designation though.
The Founding of the Bundeswehr
Following the end of the Second World War, the German Reich was divided into four occupation zones. As a result of the Potsdam Conference which took place from July to August 1945, France, Great Britain, and the United States occupied West Germany and the Soviet Union East Germany. The four occupying powers decreed on August 30th 1945, under Order no. 1, that the German Army was dissolved, with full dissolution of the armed forces under Law no. 8 on November 30th 1945.
In the years following the occupation of Germany, a large string of events would open the door for German rearmament. The Cold War would slowly start as a result of the Soviet spread of Communism through satellite states, the Truman Doctrine, the Berlin Blockade of 1948 to 1949, the detonation of the first Soviet atomic bomb, the formation of the West and East German states, the formation of NATO, Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, and the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.
The Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany or commonly known as West Germany) was formed on May 23rd 1949. With the beginning of the Korean War a year later, a large group of ex-Wehrmacht officers met at the Himmerod Abbey to discuss the formation of a West German Army. In 1951, the Bundesgrenzschutz, or BGS, was formed as a lightly armed police force for the patrol of the West German border with the Soviet-aligned states.
Eventually, after a failed European Defence Community which had attempted to put all the European Armies under a single overarching command structure, Germany was invited to NATO and joined on May 5th 1955. On June 7th 1955, the West German Federal Ministry of Defence was formed and, on November 12th, the Bundeswehr was created with the enlistment of its first 101 volunteers.
Jagdpanzer and Sturmgeschütz during the Second World War
The newly formed Bundeswehr started forming its doctrine and equipment by drawing from previous experiences of the Second World War. The Kanonenjagdpanzers were one of these products which could trace back their lineage to doctrine and vehicles from the previous war, where the Jagdpanzer and Sturmgeschütz proved their worth.
At the start of WW2, a fairly clear distinction could be made between the Panzerjäger and Sturmgeschütz. The Panzerjägers started off as lightly armored self-propelled guns for anti-tank purposes, such as the Marders, while the StuGs were more heavily armored and meant to support the infantry. The StuGs were initially not meant to engage enemy tanks unless they had to in self-defense, as they were still armed with the short barreled L/24 7.5 cm cannon.
But this distinction already started to fade as early as 1942, when the first long barrel 7.5 cm L/43 armed StuGs entered production and were fielded with the StuG units. The StuGs became able to effectively fight tanks and, in March 1942, they were used to great effect in the first deployment of the StuGAbt 197 in the defense against Soviet massed tank assaults. The StuGs would function not only as infantry support vehicles, but with the improved firepower, also take on the role of a Panzerjäger when needed.
In fact, the Jagdpanzer IV, originally designated as Sturmgeschütz n.A and meant to replace the StuG III, ended up with a Panzerjäger designation after a proposal from Heinz Guderian. During the mid to later stages of the war, Panzerjäger units transitioned from their light vehicles to more heavily armored casemate style tanks instead. From 1944 on, Panzerjäger units would be filled with Jagdpanzer IVs, while the StuG units had to make do with the StuG IIIs until they started receiving Jagdpanzer IVs in limited numbers at the very end of the war. In essence, the Jagdpanzer IVs would be more effective for the German Army functioning as Jagdpanzers, while the StuG III would remain reasonably effective as an infantry support vehicle with anti-tank capability.
But the similarity between the StuG and the Jagdpanzer IV cannot be overlooked and they did end up performing more or less similar tasks due to them having similar capabilities, with the latter ending up in StuG units as well. It took until August 1944 for the Jagdpanzer IV to get stronger anti-tank capabilities, after it was armed with a more powerful 7.5 cm L/70 gun and thus served more fittingly as a Panzerjäger. As the war reached its conclusion in 1945, the distinction between Sturmgeschütz and Jagdpanzer classification became non-existent, as 100 7.5 cm L/70 armed Jagdpanzer IVs were distributed over 19 different StuG Brigades from January to March 1945. The merging of these two separate doctrines into a single vehicle fitting both purposes seems to have been the main inspiration for the usage of the later Kanonenjagdpanzers.
A New Generation of Jagdpanzers
The Bundeswehr had a lot of catching up to do when it was founded in 1955, as the Germans had not designed, built, or operated armored equipment in the past 10 years. On top of not having designed new equipment, the Germans were lacking new equipment in general to outfit their new Army. The Bundeswehr started off by acquiring foreign equipment, such as the American M41 Walker Bulldog and M47 Patton, but also the French Hotchkiss SPz Kurz Typ 11-2 and Swiss Hispano-Suiza HS 30 infantry fighting vehicle.
Besides acquiring new equipment, the Bundeswehr also had to figure out what they wanted to do with their Army from a doctrinal point of view. Initially, it seemed that the Germans more or less looked at their Army structure of World War 2, picked the concepts that worked and then adjusted those to better fit the time period of the Bundeswehr. Two of these concepts which had worked were the Jagdpanzers and StuGs.
The Bundeswehr returned to the Jagdpanzer IV concept, which had functioned as both a Panzerjäger and Sturmgeschütz, for their new anti-tank vehicle. The Kanonenjagdpanzers would be the spiritual successor to the Jagdpanzer IV and serve mainly as Jagdpanzers in anti-tank battalions within armored infantry brigades and mountaineer brigades, but fill a role similar to the StuGs in anti-tank platoons within the smaller armored infantry and mountain battalions. The West Germans decided that the newly acquired HS 30 (SPz Lang) was to function as the basis for their new Jagdpanzer.
The HS 30
When the Bundeswehr was founded, it sought to find a new type of armored personnel carrier to equip its troops. Based on trials with designs such as the American M59 and the French AMX-VTP and on experiences of WW2, a new concept of APC was to be introduced. The Schützenpanzer (can be translated as armored personnel carrier or infantry fighting vehicle, although it is seen as an IFV) concept was born.
The Germans did not yet have the capability or an industry ready to design such a vehicle however. Perhaps surprisingly, the contract for the new Schützenpanzer went to the Swiss branch of the company Hispano-Suiza, which had been founded in 1938. Hispano-Suiza did not have any experience in the design of tracked vehicles and had not even built a working prototype when it secured the contract. In fact, only a rough design sketch and a wooden scale model were made when the contract for the acquisition of as many as 10,680 vehicles was signed on July 5th 1956.
The fact that a company with no experience in designing tracked vehicles managed to obtain a 10,000 vehicle contract without even building a functioning prototype or even providing production sketches raised some eyebrows. When the first prototypes in 1957 arrived, they performed inadequately and the HS 30 would remain faulty, as certain design errors of the driver train were never really fixed. When the Jagdpanzer program was initiated in 1957, the number of HS 30s, which had been cut down to a still significant 4,412 vehicles, still seemed to be considerable enough to attempt to build an HS 30 based Jagdpanzer for potentially ease of logistics.
The Bundeswehr ended up receiving 2,176 vehicles, after the initial order of 10,680 vehicles was cut down over the years due to inadequacy and delays of the program. The HS 30 program would eventually turn into the largest acquisition scandal of the Bundeswehr and the German Government when journalists of the Frankfurter Rundschau and the Deutsches Panorama would connect the acquisition with significant bribes to officials in key positions and the CDU (Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands, Christian Democratic Union of Germany).
Designing the New Kanonenjagdpanzer
Already in October 1955, the Bundeswehr considered the acquisition of 2,820 Kanonenjagdpanzer armed with a 90 mm gun. The development of the new generation of Jagdpanzers began in 1957. It is likely that the project was initiated in 1957, as the HS 30 hull entered its first trials and was thus available for conversion. A project known as the Spähpanzer 1C (Reconnaissance tank 1C) on the SPz Kurz hull would be initiated as well. The later project was also known under the designation of Spähpanzerjäger (Reconnaissance tank hunter), as it would carry out reconnaissance duties and have the armament to take on enemy tanks.
The HS 30 design was altered in a fairly logical way, as the original troop transport compartment was integrated into the fighting compartment. The front structure of the fighting compartment was then heightened to 1.75 m, which was about 0.1 m smaller than the HS 30 IFV version. The smoke launchers were also moved from the upper hull plate to the engine bay top on both sides. The estimated costs were to be around 130,000 Deutschmark (About 31.000 US Dollars in 1957 and about 328.000 US Dollars in 2022) per vehicle.
It is possible that the Germans were convinced to arm the new Jagdpanzer with a 90 mm due to a French proposal for a Spähpanzerjäger in 1955. This project was a SPz Kurz with an early version of what seems to be the Hispano-Suiza H-90 turret of the future AML-90 and, according to author Rolf Hilmes, armed with a Mecar 90 mm low pressure gun, although the the French archives on the SP 1C say its a 90 mm D921. This early proposal, with promising penetration capabilities for a vehicle weighing less than 10 tonnes, would have likely made the German staff consider arming the new casemate Jagdpanzer with this 90 mm gun as well.
The gun selected for the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 was the 90 mm DEFA D915, which was the same gun as that used on the AMX ELC. What is interesting is that sourcing claims that it shared the same gun as the AMX-13/90. This likely comes from the muzzle brake of the D915, which was similar to that of the CN90 F3 of the AMX-13. The caliber length however did not match, as the F3 had a caliber length of 52, while the D915 had a caliber length of 33.4. This seems to be further supported by the fact that the D915 was part of a program already around the mid-1950s, while the CN90 F3 would appear in the 1960s.
This is important because, in 1959, a full scale mild steel prototype and an armor steel prototype were built. It is likely that the mild steel prototype was built first to serve as something of a functioning mock-up before building a more expensive prototype for testing. The armor steel prototype was trialed in either 1959 or 1960. Peter Blume claims 1959, while Rolf Hilmes claims spring 1960. Considering the follow-up prototypes for the Kanonenjagdpanzer 4-5 would start to appear in 1960, it is possible that the trials were in late 1959 to spring 1960, as they were said to be somewhat extensive. The writer will as such continue with the idea that the vehicle was trialed from 1959 to spring 1960.
The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 in Detail
The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 weighed 13.72 tonnes (15.1 US tons) and was 7.06 m (23.16 feet) long including the gun and 5.56 m (18.24 feet) long excluding the gun, 2.5 m (8.2 feet) wide, and 1.75 m (5.74 feet) tall. The vehicle was operated by a four-man crew, consisting of the commander in the right rear of the casemate, the gunner in front of him, the loader on the left rear, and the driver in front of the loader.
The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 used a welded structure converted from a HS 30. In essence, the vehicle integrated and heightened the troop compartment to make a single fighting compartment and to provide space for the commander, loader and the recoiling gun. The vehicle was constructed of armor steel plates with 30 mm (1.2 inch) of steel frontally and 20 mm (0.8 inch) on the sides.
The Kanonenjagdpanzer sported a headlight protected by a headlight guard on each side of the upper front plate and what seemed to be two blacklights next to those. Two side mirrors were located on the upper part of the upper front plate on each side. In the middle was the ball mounted cannon protected by a gun shield. If the gun shield used the same thicknesses as that of the Kanonenjagdpanzer 4-5, then the armor would range from 32 to 40 mm (1.25 to 1.57 inch) of cast steel. The vehicle also featured two tow hooks on the lower front plate.
The gunner, on the front right, had two periscopes available, while the driver on the left side of the vehicle had three. Of the two, only the driver seems to have had a hatch. The commander and his commander cupola were located to the rear of the gunner. The commander supposedly had a 7.62 mm machine gun mounted on the commander’s cupola, which would most likely have been an MG1. The loader had access to a large hinged hatch.
The engine was located on the right side of the rear. It is unclear how the leftover space of what used to be the entry for the transported troops was utilized. Perhaps it was turned into a stowage compartment, but this is speculation. What is an interesting design feature is that the entire rear piece from behind the engine was bolted on the main hull. This meant that, for maintenance, this rear piece could be removed, although the transmission remained fixed to the rear piece and, as such, the engine as well. The issue of this design was that 64 bolts had to be unblocked to pull off the rear and was a time consuming process.
Four smoke launchers were mounted on top of the right side of the engine bay and an antenna seems to have been mounted somewhere on the middle rear of the engine bay top. What exactly was mounted on the rear plate is unknown, but it is likely that it was fairly similar to what was on the HS 30. This would mean a jerry can mounting on the rear right with a towing cable wrapped around it. The exhaust pipe would be located under the jerry can and a number of hatches would be available on the left side of the rear. It is unknown if the double hatched door present on the HS 30 for the passengers was retained. The vehicle would have had two rear lights on each side of the rear plate, mountings for tools, and two towing hooks on the rear.
The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 was powered by the Rolls-Royce B81 MK80F 8-cylinder in-line 220 hp petrol engine. It was paired with a planetary gearbox with four speeds forward and 1 in reverse. The vehicle had a top speed of 51 km/h (32 mph) and a range of 270 km (168 miles). The vehicle had a hp to ton ratio of 16.
What is strange is that the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 had a 280 l fuel tank while the HS 30 had a 340 l fuel tank (74 and 90 US gallons respectively), while both had a range of 270 km. It is possible that sourcing on the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 is incorrect and that it should be a 340 l fuel tank.
The on ground track length was 3.03 m (10 feet), with a track width of 0.38 m, which gave the vehicle a ground pressure of 0.6 kg/cm2 (8.5 PSI). The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 used a torsion bar suspension with five road wheels and three support rollers. The drive sprocket was located on the rear part of the suspension and the idler wheel on the front side. It could climb a 60% slope, traverse a vertical obstacle of 0.6 m (2 feet) tall, cross a 1.5 m (5 feet) wide trench, and ford for 0.7 m (2.3 feet) deep.
The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 was armed with a 90 mm DEFA D915 low pressure gun. This meant that the gun’s penetration power would not come from kinetic energy ammunition, which relies on high velocities to penetrate a target, but on chemical ammunition instead. This means that all the penetration came from the round itself and was thus bound by the dimensions of the ammunition. High Explosive Anti-Tank shells (HEAT) are such rounds, as they use a jet of, for example, copper to penetrate through the armor.
The advantage is that high performing ammunition could be fired from very light platforms, as the HEAT ammunition could penetrate up to 320 mm (12.6 inch) of steel, while not having too much recoil force. The downside was that, due to the reduced barrel length and muzzle velocity, the guns tended to be much more inaccurate or even ineffective altogether at ranges further than 1 km (1,094 yards).
The D915 gun was 3.19 m (10.5 feet) long with a barrel length of 3 m (9.8 feet), giving it a caliber length of 33.4. It had a muzzle velocity of 700 m/s when firing a 7.5 kg (16.5 pounds) HEAT projectile with a penetration of 320 mm of steel flat at any range. The HEAT round had an effective range of 1 km. There is no clear information available on High Explosive rounds or High Explosive Squash Head rounds being developed or ready. The amount of ammunition the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 could stow is unknown as well.
The 90 mm gun was aimed through a direct sight telescope on the right side of the gun and had no proper range finding equipment. The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 did have access to infrared night vision equipment. The gun could be swiveled 30° from side to side and had an elevation of 15° and depression of -8°.
Aside from the main gun, the vehicle was armed with a hull top mounted 7.62 mm MG1 for the commander and a 7.62 mm on the left side of the main gun, in the gun shield.
Testing and Fate
The prototype was tested from 1959 to spring 1960 at the Panzerabwehrschule Munster (Anti-tank School Munster) and performed abysmally. The fighting compartment, which was only 1.54 m wide, proved too cramped for the crew and to properly operate the gun. If the gun was fully swiveled to the right, the driver could not fully steer the vehicle due to the breech. If the gun was swiveled 12° or more to the left, the gunner was trapped by the gun and could not operate it and thus the gun could not be fired. The loader was supposed to act as a radio operator but could not reach the radio.
The gun itself was also considered inadequate due to its limited range and bad accuracy. The ammunition was not NATO-standard, which was criticized for understandable reasons. The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 also did not have a fan for the crew compartment, which caused unacceptable levels of CO in the fighting compartment, nor did it have an NBC system (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical warfare filtration system). Some parts of the ball mount were also not well enough protected against potential shrapnel.
The biggest issue was the main gun placement. As the gun was placed on the front of the hull on a vehicle not designed for this, a disproportionate amount of weight leaned on the front road wheels. The 26% increase of weight caused extreme wear on the bearings of the running gear and the running gear broke during the first trials after just 68 km (42 miles). Considering the initial requirement of the HS 30 was a horsepower to ton ratio of at least 20, it is likely that the ratio of the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 was also criticized for being too slow.
All in all, these issues caused the rejection of the vehicle. But this did not mean the vehicle was not valuable. Lessons were learned on what not to do and concepts were tested. The overall design layout returned in the Kanonenjagdpanzer 4-5 and the gun shield design returned as well. It could be argued that the Kanonenjagdpanzer 4-5 was very roughly a larger Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 with better weight distribution and crew layout among other improvements, such as the gun.
The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 reappeared in 1961, when the Spz 12.1 was undergoing tests. The SPz 12.1 was one of the proposals to replace the HS 30 and was designed by Ruhrstahl and the engineering firm Warneke. Ruhrstahl would be one of the participants in later proposals for the Kanonenjagdpanzer program and also the RU 251 light tank.
Parallel to the development of the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 was the development of an ATGM (Anti-Tank Guided Missile) armed Jagdpanzer also converted from an HS 30 hull. ATGM systems were highly praised by the Bundeswehr, and as such, development of the Raketenjagdpanzer began in 1959 and the first prototype was built in the same year, known as Raketenjagdpanzer 3-3. Interestingly, according to Rolf Hilmes, one of the two Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 prototypes was converted into the Raketenjagdpanzer 3-3 prototype. Considering the version trialed was still around in 1961 (which was likely the armor steel prototype), it is possible that the mild steel prototype was used, as it would be easier to convert, as mild steel has better properties for machining.
This converted Raketenjagdpanzer 3-3 remains to this day at the Tank Museum in Munster where, with the right light angle, one can still see the original location of the 90 mm gun mount which has been welded shut. The fate of the other non-converted Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 is unknown. The Raketenjagdpanzer 3-3 was successful, with a production run of 95 vehicles. Due to it not having a gun at the front, all the weight balance issues were much easier to tackle. In addition, the SS.11 ATGMs would be less lacking than the 90 mm D915 gun.
The Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 was the first and unsuccessful attempt from the Germans to restart building anti-tank vehicles. The design seems to not have been much more than an attempt to see if they could get away with mounting a 90 mm gun on the HS 30 to save costs or as a doomed to fail but valuable test bed.
Very little actually changed conceptually from the initial design to the Kanonenjagdpanzer 4-5, except that everything was a bit bigger. The biggest issue apart from improper weight balance was the lack of space of the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3. Both could be solved by rearranging the design and by scaling the vehicle up. All in all, the Kanonenjagdpanzer 1-3 itself was a failure, but in the grand scheme of the Kanonenjagdpanzer, it was a step in the right direction.
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||7.06 x 2.5 x 1.75 m (23.16 x 8.20 x 5.74 ft)|
|Total weight, battle-ready||13.72 tonnes (15.12 US tons)|
|Crew||4 (driver, gunner, loader/radio operator, commander)|
|Engine||Rolls-Royce B81 MK80F 8-cylinder in-line 220 hp petrol engine|
|Speed||51 km/h (32 mph)|
|Range||270 km (168 mi)|
|Power to weight ratio||16 hp/tonne|
|Transmission gearing||4 forward – 1 reverse|
|Fuel capacity||280 or 340 l (74 or 90 US gallons)|
|Trench crossing capability||1.5 m (5 feet)|
|Armament||Primary: 90 mm DEFA D915
Coaxial: 1 x 7.62 mm MG1
Hull top mounted: 1 x 7.62 mm MG1
|Elevation and traverse||(90 mm DEFA D915): 30° traverse, 15° elevation 8° depression|
|Armor||Hull: 30 – 20 mm (1.18 – 0.78 inch)|
|Production||1 prototype and 1 mild steel prototype|
Kanonen/Raketen-Jagdpanzer der Bundeswehr – Peter Blume
Jagdpanzer der Bundeswehr – Rolf Hilmes
Schützenpanzer – Frank Köhler
Schützenpanzer kurz, Hotchkiss/ lang, HS 30 – Peter Blume
Panzer Tracts No.9 Jagdpanzer – Thomas Jentz and Hilary Doyle
Sturmartillerie – Thomas Anderson
German Federal Government V/1468
German Federal Government V/1041
Der Spiegel – HS 30 Oder wie Man einen Staat ruiniert – Rudolf Augstein
Bundeswehr und Ausrüstung – Thomas Haslinger