Has Own Video WW2 Australian Prototypes

Matilda Hedgehog

Commonwealth of Australia (1945)
Tank-Mounted Spigot Mortar – 6 Built

Troopers Hoskin, Lear and Elton sitting on the cupola turret of tank 10194, the markings of the 4th Armoured Brigade Group and the 2/4 Armoured Regiment can be seen on the front of the vehicle. The angled side plates of the production projectors and the mesh anti-bomb screens fitted to the top of the projector and engine decks are visible. Australia 1946. Source Australian War Memorial 124796

Rumble in the Jungle

Beginning in 1942, as Australian forces battled against the Japanese through New Guinea and the South West Pacific, it became apparent that there was an increasing need for offensive armaments capable of demolishing Japanese defensive positions. The typical Japanese bunker was a fighting pit reinforced by interlocked palm logs and roofed with timber or sheet metal. On top of this, a layer of earth approximately 18 in (46 cm) thick was placed on the roof and sides of the bunker. Its low profile made it incredibly difficult to identify in a jungle environment, and its construction made it very resistant to light weapons fire, particularly weapons with impact or graze fuses, where the earth layer absorbed the explosive force. Australian forces encountered great difficulty when faced with these defenses. The resilient structure meant that even if the firing port was destroyed, the soldiers inside were often unharmed, which resulted in attacking Allied soldiers bypassing the presumably destroyed bunker only to be attacked from behind by the emerging Japanese defenders.

Major R.C Grover of the Operational Research Section standing outside a Japanese style bunker constructed for weapons testing. The low profile of the structure and narrow firing slit provide less of a target than a standing soldier. Wandokai, New Guinea 1944. Source Australian War Memorial 072392
A soldier from the 2/9th infantry battalion emerges from a captured Japanese bunker. Shaggy Ridge, New Guinea 1944. Source Australian War Memorial 064272

Bunker Buster by Hand

The initial tool for dealing with these defenses was the ‘blast bomb’, otherwise known as the ‘Grenade Initiated Ammonal Charge’, a field expedient constructed by attaching a standard infantry grenade to a two pound (0.9 kg) tin of ammonal explosive. Although effective enough to be adopted for standardization as a production armament and recommended for further refinement, the blast bomb still had limitations. Primarily, the blast effect of the weapon was only enough to destroy a Japanese bunker if detonated inside the structure. The external detonation would only result in superficial damage. Furthermore, as an infantry grenade, it required soldiers to approach the target close enough that the bomb could be reliably thrown through the firing slit into the bunker’s interior. A variation of combining the 2 lb (0.9 kg) ammonal charge with a No.68 rifle grenade was considered to allow for greater range. However, static testing showed that external detonation of the charge resulted in little effect and the rifle grenade was deemed unable to reliably project the bomb through the firing slit. A 25-pounder cartridge case filled with gelignite was also considered, but found to be too bulky for easy manipulation by infantry, while a charge of TNT detonated by a Murphey Switch was deemed too complicated for infantry without specialist training.

In January/February 1943, a series of firing trials was conducted against various simulated bunker targets at the School of Armour, located at Puckapunyal, Victoria, to assess the effectiveness of various tank and infantry weapons against Japanese bunkers. Testing revealed that the low-caliber weapons, such as the 2-pounder and 37 mm guns, were ineffective against bunkers with either High Explosive (HE) or Armor Piercing (AP) ammunition. Larger caliber weapons, such as the 6-pounder or 25-pounder, were considered effective when firing HE. However, these were not practical solutions, as Australia did not possess any self-propelled mountings for the larger guns and moving towed models of the 6-pounder and 25-pounder was extremely difficult in the conditions of the South West Pacific.

Spigot Mortars

In early 1944, a series of requirements were issued by Brigadier Denzel McArthur-Onslow, the commander of the Australian 4th Armoured Brigade Group, to develop a series of specialized armored vehicles for use in the South West Pacific. Included amongst these requirements was an AFV-mounted weapon capable of ‘destroying completely’ a Japanese bunker. For this purpose, the Hedgehog anti-submarine spigot mortar was selected as a readily available weapon with a large explosive payload. The modification of the Hedgehog for use in land combat was designated ‘Projector, Hedgehog, (Aust), No.1, Mk1’ and subsequently developed for mounting on the Matilda II infantry tank. A functioning mock-up was manufactured by the 4th Armoured Brigade Group Workshop and subjected to initial trials in August of 1944.

Men of 2/5 Armoured Regiment, 4th Armoured Brigade Group, in the process of loading the 1944 trials projector. The six spigots and protective cylinders that support the bombs are considerably more exposed than on later versions of the design. Source Australian War Memorial, Regimental Diaries of 2/5 Armoured Regiment

For the test vehicle, six Hedgehog spigots were mounted in line along a 5 in (12.7 cm) diameter Vibrok steel shaft set between a pair of rotary bearings. The bearings were, in turn, mounted to a pair of short girders welded to the tank’s rear track guards. Each spigot was enclosed in a sheet steel cylinder to provide protection and support for the Hedgehog bombs. The cylinders were arranged to bed down on the engine louvers when not in the firing position. The spigots were rotated into the firing position via a hydraulic ram actuated by a hand pump located in the turret. Firing was controlled by an electrical switchboard inside the tank, with elevation interlocks preventing the weapon from firing if the turret would obstruct the path of the projectile or if the spigots were elevated to greater than 75°. The original Hedgehog fuse, being designed for use underwater, was not suitable for the intended use against terrestrial hard targets. Therefore, it was replaced with the No.152 direct action fuse, taken from the 3-inch mortar. This was fitted using an adaptor which screwed into the bomb above a stacked detonation charge.

The standard Naval mounting of the Hedgehog mortar for use as an anti-submarine weapon aboard the River class frigate HMAS Gascoyne. Note the bombs are not fitted with fuses. Australia 1943. Source Australian War Memorial P00444.023

For the tests, twelve inert bombs were fired from a single spigot at an angle of 45º, resulting in a range of 200 ya (180 m) with a longitudinal variation of 5 ya (4.5 m) and a line dispersion of 1 ya (0.9 m). A further three salvos of 6 inert bombs were fired, yielding a range of 200 ya (180 m) with a longitudinal variation of 5 ya (4.5 m) and a line dispersion of 1.5 ya (1.3 m). Reduction of elevation to 35º resulted in a decrease of impact to 190 ya (170 m), although it was noted that inert bombs gave, on average, 10 ya (9 m) less range than live bombs.

Firing live bombs resulted in 2 ft (0.6 m) deep blast craters with a diameter of 7 ft (2.1 m). Vegetation was entirely cleared on a radius of 6 ft (1.8 m) from the blast, while concertina wire was cleared on a radius of 4 ft (1.2 m). A salvo of 6 bombs completely cleared thick vegetation and concertina wire from an area of 35×14 ya (32×13 m). A mock-up bunker was constructed from two layers of 15’ logs covered with sandbags and earth to a depth of 2 ft (0.6 m). The whole target measured 10×8 ft (3×2.4 m). Out of seven bombs fired, three direct hits were obtained. The first hit cleared most of the earth while the remaining two blew away the logs and exposed the interior of the bunker. It was noted that the flash and blast of the bomb was impressive, however, the fragmentation effect was considered unsatisfactory beyond 10 ya (9 m).

The results of the 1944 tests were enough to justify further development of the weapon, and the refined design was subjected to more rigorous testing in March/April 1945. In December 1944, it was also suggested that the Hedgehog could be satisfactorily mounted on the rear deck of an M3 Medium Tank, but this option was ultimately not pursued.

The Matilda Hedgehogs

In addition to the test vehicle, another five tanks would be fitted with Hedgehog projectors, for a total of six vehicles (tanks nos.82136, 88344, 35307, 10194, 6908, 35357), with the fabrication and fitting work being conducted throughout 1945 by the engineering firm of A. & P. Uscinski, based at Corparoo, Queensland. The refined weapon retained the same spigot cylinders and transverse axle mounting, but increased the amount of spigots to seven, now protected within a box of locally produced 11 mm weldable Australian Bullet Proof Plate No.3 (ABP3). An additional armored plate at the front of the mounting covered up the bombs when the weapon was fully depressed, protecting them from damage due to shrapnel or enemy fire. The production examples of the weapon would also feature additional angled plates of 11 mm ABP3 on the sides and front of the projector, as well as mesh anti-bomb screens on the top of the projector and the engine deck of the vehicle.

A series of paired struts, which slotted into the cylinders when the weapon was closed, were added to support the bombs and prevent the fuses from being damaged in transit. The spigots could be elevated and depressed via a hydraulic controller and solenoid switch located on the left-hand side of the driver’s position. The controller and hydraulic pump itself were a repurposed ‘Logan’ Gerotor type from an M3 Medium Tank, driving a pair of hydraulic rams repurposed from aircraft landing gear. The pump, motor, and oil reservoir were contained in the left-hand chain locker at the front of the tank, and power was supplied via the tank’s main batteries.

A simple blade sight was attached to the turret at the twelve o’clock position to allow the commander to provide a rough lay of the weapon on target. Ranging and aiming was controlled entirely from the elevation of the spigots and the direction the vehicle was facing. The driver had a mechanical elevation indicator mounted on the right side of the driver’s position. This was driven by a chain sprocket attached to the spigot shaft and a piano wire linkage. Issues with deviation of line due to tilt of the tank led to a simple hanging tilt indicator being added to production vehicles.

Firing was controlled by an electrical switchboard in the tank turret, located to the left of the gunner’s position. When conducting the firing process, the operator inserted the firing lead into the socket of the corresponding spigot and then pressed the firing switch to close the electrical circuit. Bombs could be fired individually, or, if required, the operator could hold down the firing switch as he switched between sockets to fire the bombs in a ‘ripple’ salvo. Using the latter method, it was determined that the projector could fire seven bombs with ⅓-second intervals and all seven bombs could be in flight at one time. A set of electrical interlocks were included to prevent the bombs from firing when the spigots were elevated below the level of the tank turret, or to an angle greater than 70º. Additionally, in order to prevent potential damage to the tank’s wireless aerials, an extra interlock was installed on the fifth spigot circuit. This prevented the bomb from firing unless the tank turret was turned to the two o’clock position. An additional offset sighting vane was provided to allow for aiming the fifth spigot when the turret was rotated.

Rear view of the 1945 trials projector. The spigots have been raised to full elevation and the mounting girders welded to the rear track guards are clearly visible. Source: National Archives of Australia MP742/1, 215/1/217
looking from the turret into the cylinders of the 1945 trials projector. Source: National Archives of Australia MP742/1, 215/1/217


Major Alan Milner, head of the 4th Armoured Brigade Group’s mechanical workshop, developed a stereoscopic rangefinder for the Hedgehog. In January 1945, the design was submitted to the Australian Solar Observatory at Mt. Stromlo for manufacture. The design was derived from a Barr & Stroud stereoscopic rangefinder and operated under a fixed coincidence principle, where a prism within the sight would align the two eyepiece images into a single coherent image when the correct range had been achieved. The design was set to a fixed range of 200 ya (180 m) but, based on Army projections that the range of the Hedgehog may be increased up to 500 ya (450 m), it was intended that the central prism be removable to allow for an increased range scale (this was later reduced to 330 ya (300 m). A prototype was produced and tested in a limited capacity alongside the tests of the production Hedgehog in March/June 1945. The rangefinder worked satisfactorily against distinct targets (a 6 in wide pole) in open ground, giving coincidence at 200 yards (180 m) with a ~5 ya (4.5 m) deviation (inexperienced operators increased this deviation by an extra 10 ya(+/- 9 m). When trialed against obscured targets in heavily wooded terrain, results were less satisfactory, as the overlap of dense vegetation prevented the operator from clearly distinguishing the transition to image coincidence of the target. The trials report concluded that the rangefinder was not an Army requirement. However, technical report No.16 from October 1945 states that a coincidence rangefinder would be supplied for tanks fitted with Hedgehog projectors, although it is unclear if any other examples were produced, other than the trial prototype, before work on the Hedgehog was discontinued.

Tank number 35357 ‘Bull Pup’ fitted with the 1945 trials model of the Hedgehog projector. Note the vertical sides and exposed mounting girders that additional armored plates would cover in the production model. Source Australian War Memorial 133687

More Testing, Less War

The 1945 tests yielded very similar results to the prior 1944 tests, with good performance noted in several areas. Firstly, the large blast produced by the bomb was effective at removing foliage from an area, with a noted tendency for the blast to ‘flatten’ foliage within its radius. This task was previously achieved by using the tank’s coaxial 7.92 mm Besa machine gun to ‘strip’ foliage from a target area. While effective, this had been recognised as an inefficient expenditure of ammunition. A salvo of seven Hedgehog bombs, with enough accuracy, could clear jungle foliage in a strip with an estimated area of 135 ya by 27 ya (123×25 m).

Secondly, the bombs were recognised for their potential utility in mine clearing. Testing revealed that, given enough accuracy from the tank crew, a corridor 72 ya long by 6 ya wide (66×5.5 m) could be cleared through an anti-personnel minefield. Conversely, it was recognised that the utility of the Hedgehog would be greatly reduced against anti-tank mines due to the much higher tolerance to blast effect in these types of mines. It was further noted that scarce data was available about Japanese anti-tank mines. Lastly, it was considered that such a large blast effect, combined with the fact that the firing vehicle outwardly appeared identical to a regular gun tank, would have a significant negative effect on enemy infantry morale.

Regarding the weapon’s main objective, the destruction of Japanese bunkers, results were less satisfactory. The major problem identified was that the impact fuse meant that the bombs detonated before achieving enough penetration to demolish the target. Attempts to delay detonation by firing with the fuse cap on resulted in bombs burying into the ground without detonation, and it was identified that a delayed action fuse would be needed to provide suitable results. The 1945 report does not specify if a delayed fuse was obtained during the trials. However, the provisional tactical notes from March 1945 suggest a penetration value of 4 ft(1.2 m) of earth with a delayed action fuse, although it is unclear if this is a confirmed value or an estimate.

Furthermore, concerns were raised regarding the accuracy of the weapon. With only 7 bombs available, it was considered impractical for ranging shots to be made. Without a suitable rangefinder available during trials, it was found to be difficult to accurately judge the distance to the target to achieve a first-round hit. In addition to this, the bombs were observed to wobble in flight, which led to inconsistency in accuracy between individual shots. The blunt nose and cylinder-type tail vanes of the bomb were judged to be the main cause of this issue, and it was recommended that a more aerodynamic nose cone and larger fin-type vane on the bomb would reduce this. However, there is no evidence that either modification entered production, nor are they mentioned in any subsequent documentation. Aside from the standing requirement for a delayed action fuse to be obtained at the nearest opportunity, the major conclusions to the accuracy issues primarily focused on emphasizing crew training and proper ranging of the weapon, with the accuracy being otherwise regarded as ‘serviceable’.

An area of Lantana scrub prior to test firing of the Hedgehog projector. This level of foliage was analogous to that encountered in the jungles of the South West Pacific. The standing soldier would be difficult to spot, a low profile bunker almost impossible. Source National Archives of Australia MP742/1, 215/1/217
The same area of Lantana scrub after the Hedgehog projector was fired. What was once dense foliage has now been stripped away, exposing any concealed obstacles or defensive positions. Source National Australian Archives MP742/1, 215/1/217

A series of survivability trials were also conducted to assess the weapon’s vulnerability and the outcome of a possible detonation of one or more bombs on the tank. For this purpose, a mock-up bomb rack was produced from armored plate and attached to the rear of a spare Matilda tank. Multiple weapons were fired against the mock-up projector assembly, including .30 caliber rifle ammunition, rifle grenades, 20 mm AP shells, 37 mm AP shells, 75 mm HE shells and a simulated Type 99 magnetic mine. Against .30 caliber ball and AP ammunition, the projector was deemed completely immune while closed, and only vulnerable at the opening of the cylinders when these were open. The bombs showed favorably low volatility, with a tendency to burn rather than explode when hit. Direct hits from the 75 mm HE and Type 99 charge resulted in the bomb rack being blown off the back of the tank, while the bombs remained safely undetonated. The M9A1 rifle grenade and 37 mm AP round both penetrated the armor of the projector but again the bombs burned rather than detonating. When a simulated rack of 7 bombs was detonated, the turret of the tank was lifted and turned. However, readings of blast pressure showed that, discounting mechanical injury to the crew, there was a greater than 50% chance for a crewman to survive the blast effect of the detonation of the bomb payload.

Further testing was conducted in mid-1945 to determine if alternative propellants could be used to reliably increase the range of the Hedgehog. Information from the UK had indicated that a charge of FNH025 propellant could increase the range of the Hedgehog bomb by an additional 100 ya (90 m) without risk of bursting the bomb tails. FNH025 was not available in Australia, hence approval was given by the Director of Armaments for testing to be conducted using NH025 propellant instead. The tests revealed that a propellant charge of 500 grains NH025 cordite would provide an increase in accurate range to approximately 330 ya (301m) vs the 200-ya (182m) range of the standard charge of 260 gr HSCT. Inspection of the projector and hydraulic systems showed that the weapon could handle the increased force from the new propellant, and it was noted that the vehicle moved off under its own power in good order after the test firing was completed. However, the increased pressure gradient of the new propellant resulted in potential damage to the electrical contacts in the spigot, with the spring being compressed out of alignment, such that the contacts would not reliably fire subsequent bombs. Hence, it was recommended that, if NH025 propellant was to be adopted, the cartridge case in the bomb should be modified to alleviate undue pressure on the electrical contacts, although this was noted to be difficult due to the bombs not being in production locally.

‘He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not’

The exact outcome of the Hedgehog trials is something of a confusing matter, and a confounding quirk of documentation does not help this. Memorandum No.49 of the Operational Research Section reported rather favorably on the Hedgehog. However, in memorandum No.50, the opinion appears reversed and several criticisms are raised. Firstly, the accuracy of the weapon was called into question, with the estimated hit probability of only 1 bomb in 5-6 being deemed inefficient for a weapon with only 7 shots, something that the uncertainties of a combat situation would further exacerbate.

Secondly, the lack of penetration and poor fragmentation of the bomb was noted as insufficient for anti-bunker or anti-infantry work, although it was noted that the bombs could be suitable for delivering white phosphorus as an anti-infantry incendiary weapon. Thirdly, the vulnerability of the weapon was questioned, and while noted as being largely resistant to detonation from rifle fire, it was noted that the weapon was still vulnerable to anti-tank grenades and other armor piercing weapons whilst it would likely draw significant enemy fire in the raised position. Finally, it was considered that 7 bombs with ammunition cases, at a total weight of 490 pounds (220 kg), would present a logistical difficulty to supply, as well as adding an increased physical burden on the crew when loading the weapon. As a final postscript to the memorandum, the Director of Mechanical Vehicles appended the following comment.

‘It is considered that the “Hedgehog” equipment is NOT suitable for mounting on a tank unless designed so as to provide arrangements for traversing the equipment independent of the tank.

However, this would require considerable design and, from the report on the potentialities of this weapon, it requires thorough investigation before being accepted as an Army requirement.’

To clarify matters, it is worth noting that Memorandum No.50 was published in March 1945 and its criticisms are in reference to the 1944 trials, while Memorandum No.49 was published in June 1945 and refers directly to the 1945 trials. The overall conclusion that can be drawn is that, despite its recognised faults, the tank mounting of the Hedgehog projector was deemed acceptably useful for further experimentation and adoption by the Army.

Tank number 35357 ‘Bull Pup’ fitted with the 1945 production model of the Hedgehog projector and mesh anti-bomb screens. A 4th Armoured Brigade Group member is demonstrating the loading of a Hedgehog bomb into the third spigot cylinder. Source Australian War Memorial AWM 54, 759/1/3
Tank number 35357 ‘Bull Pup’ fitted with the 1945 production model of the Hedgehog projector with the spigots raised, showing the attachment of the mesh anti-bomb screens. A Hedgehog bomb with the modified No.152 fuse is visible on the ground behind the tank. Source Australian War Memorial AWM 54, 759/1/3

Preparing for Combat

By March 1945, it had been decided that the six Hedgehog tanks scheduled for production would be issued to 2/9 Armoured Regiment to develop doctrine for the use of the weapon in cooperative actions between armor and infantry. The provisional doctrine for the Hedgehog outlines the weapon as:

‘A Matilda tank equipped with a Hedgehog retains all the armament and characteristics of the regular Matilda tank and is primarily used as such. The fighting qualities are unimpaired. The addition of the Hedgehog gives it extra armament – “Something for nothing”’

Tactically, the Hedgehog was considered a specialist weapon which would operate in a standard troop of 3 Hedgehog equipped tanks. They could, if needed, be attached to infantry forces or integrated within a tank troop on a singular basis, however, it was considered that deployment as a unified troop would be normal. When operating in conjunction with other armored units, the Hedgehog tanks would deploy and operate in the same way as an ordinary tank, with the Hedgehog projector being employed when suitable targets of opportunity were presented. Crews were encouraged to consider the weapon in the same way as a mortar, but with the added advantage of mobility and a greater blast effect, and the disadvantage of limited shots. Hedgehog tanks could be assigned to engage specific targets if prior reconnaissance had identified a need for such action. However, it was specified that the tanks were to remain in situ and fight as standard gun tanks once their payload of bombs had been expended.

Suitable targets were identified as

  1. Enemy troops in the open defiladed from direct fire
  2. Enemy troops in foxholes
  3. Suspected anti-tank weapons and machine gun positions
  4. Neutralisation of enemy defensive areas, including bunkers
  5. Clearance of scrub around restricted enemy locations
  6. Clearance of enemy wire and anti-tank obstacles

When operating in direct support of attacking infantry, it was advised that the tank crew be assigned a specific and direct task for their Hedgehog to engage and that the main tank armament should be treated as secondary armament until this task was accomplished. Considering the limited ammunition supply, crew commanders were instructed to conduct thorough reconnaissance to select suitable firing locations and avoid overhead obstructions which would block the flight path of the bombs. It was further noted that arrangements should be made prior to battle to allow the tanks to withdraw and replenish their bomb loads, unless it was intended for them to remain in the role of standard gun tanks. The close support radius of the weapon was specified as a 100-ya (91m) safe area from the point of impact, and it was noted that the Hedgehogs should be incorporated into mortar/artillery fire plans, with prearranged fire being coordinated through the tank troop commander. Close communication between the commander of the Hedgehog troop and infantry commanders was identified as crucial, either via wireless or through the external telephone mounted on the rear of the tanks.

End of War, End of the Weapon

Testing of the Hedgehog would continue throughout 1945 until the end of the war. Although the exact date that work on the weapon was discontinued is unclear, the available documentation ends around September or October 1945. Some published sources claim that the six Matilda Hedgehog tanks were sent to Bougainville Island (Solomon Islands) for field trials in mid-1945. However, considering that archival evidence shows that only three tanks had been delivered by July 1945 and that the six tanks produced were held by 4th Armoured Brigade Group (based at Southport, Queensland) pending instructions for disposal in September 1945, it is clear the vehicles never left Australia. Of the six vehicles produced, only one surviving example, tank No. 35357, remains at the Australian Army Tank Museum, Puckapunyal, Victoria.

Matilda Hedgehog, ilustration by Pavel Alexe.


Bingham, James Australian Sentinel and Matildas. Profile Pub, Windsor, [England], 1972.

Hopkins, Ronald Nicholas Lamond and Australian War Memorial Australian armour : a history of the Royal Australian Armoured Corps, 1927-1972. Australian War Memorial and Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1978.

National Archives of Australia

NAA: MP76/1, 18447. [Inventor/Submitter -] M Miller – Range finder for use in armoured fighting vehicles in connection with hedgehog [plans included]

NAA: MP742/1, 215/1/217. Investigation of the Hedgehog mounted on the Matilda tank [contains 12 photographs]

NAA: B3138, 43/Z/112 Trial No 125/2 OQF 2 – pounder Mk X v. Japanese “bunker” [contains 7 photos]

NAA: MP385/7, 52/101/153. Army – tank trials against log weapon pits

Australian War Memorial

AWM 54, 115/6/1 PART 1. [Bombs and Grenades – New:] Provisional tactical doctrine for Matilda Tanks, fitted with Hedgehogs, Characteristics, Drawings of, Method of filling projectile, 1-3/4 inch Hedgehog or Porcupine. Typical arrangement of stencilling, sealing and labeling, Method of filling, Primer, Electric QF cartridges No. 13 MRS I and II, steel body with tail – Box, projectile, 1-3/4″ Hedgehog P68, Mark I and III – wood to hold one, Mark II projectile – Details of tail for Mark I and II Body plus sealing, tail tube, 1-3/4″ Hedgehog, Mark III

AWM 54, 115/6/1 PART 2. [Bombs and Grenades – New:] Provisional tactical doctrine for Matilda Tanks, fitted with Hedgehogs, Characteristics, Drawings of, Method of filling projectile, 1-3/4 inch Hedgehog or Porcupine. Typical arrangement of stencilling, sealing and labeling, Method of filling, Primer, Electric QF cartridges No. 13 MRS I and II, steel body with tail – Box, projectile, 1-3/4″ Hedgehog P68, Mark I and III – wood to hold one, Mark II projectile – Details of tail for Mark I and II Body plus sealing, tail tube, 1-3/4″ Hedgehog, Mark III

AWM 54, 115/6/2. [Bombs and Grenades – New:] Papers giving details and description of Projector Hedgehog, No 1 MKL, Test Instructions, June 1945

AWM 54, 905/23/6. [Stores and Equipment – User Trials:] Copies of User Trials Reports, Extracts from Ordnance Board proceedings on Spigot Mortar’s (Blacker Bombard). Trials of QF 25-Pr Gun (light); Trials of Self propelled, 40MM AA Gun. Demonstration projector Infantry Tank Attack, Spigot Mortar for destruction of Japanese fixed defences, Lists of Rocket Kites, Summary of reports on trials of PITA

AWM 54, 925/5/4. [Tanks – Types:] Provisional Tactical Doctrine for Flame Throwers Tanks (Frog) – Appendix A to 1 Australian Corps G/6925/SD of 14 March, 45 Provisional Tactical Doctrine for Flame Thrower Tanks (Frogs) Appendix B for Matilda Tanks fitted with Hedgehogs (C) Bridge Layer Tank (Covenanter Mark II) (d) for Tank Dozer, Australian No I MK I. A paper by DTI on policy for use of Mobile Flame Throwers; Instructions concerning the Organisation and Employment of the Flame Thrower Tank Battalion points of known types of Japanese Tanks vulnerable to Flame Throwers, Matilda Tank Maintenance

AWM 54, 115/9/1. [Bombs and Grenades – Inventions:] Blast Bombs, Sketch of Grenade initiated ammonal charge, January 1943

AWM 54, 937/3/36. [Training General – Tropical Warfare:] HQ 4 Australian Armoured Brigade Training Instruction No 7 – Employment of tanks in jungle warfare, New Guinea

AWM 54, 925/7/5. [Tanks – Reports on:] Armoured Fighting Vehicles Bulletins Nos 4 to 10, 4th Australian Armoured Brigade (n.d.)

AWM 54, 423/13/24. [Intelligence – Technical Summaries:] 4 Australian Armoured Brigade AIF, AFV [Armoured Fighting Vehicle] Bulletins Nos 1 to 14, Equipment, Organisation and General Information

AWM 54, 759/1/3. [Photography – General:] File of photographs showing various types of jeeps – engineers trucks – tank dozers – matilda tanks – stuart tanks – grant diesels – machinery lorries – ambulance – covenanter bridge layers – photos of vehicles on charge – 4th Australian Armoured Brigade

Cold War French Unarmored Vehicles Has Own Video

Piaggio Vespa TAP 56 and 59

France (1956-1960)
Anti-Tank Weapon Carrier – 600~800 Built

The Piaggio Vespa TAP [Troupes AéroPortées] (English: Airborne troops) 56 and 59 were French-developed military motorbikes, based on the iconic Vespa, Italy’s most famous two-wheeler. The Vespa TAP carried a US M20 75 mm recoilless rifle with the aim of countering enemy light armored vehicles with an agile and robust vehicle that could be parachuted in where it was needed.

Vespa T.A.P. equipped with a M20 recoilless rifle. This motorbike was requested by the French Ministry of Defence, in order to procure an agile and robust vehicle.

The Vespa: how to motorise the Italian people after the Second World War

During the latter period of the war, Piaggio studied how to convert military factories to adapt them to the production of civilian vehicles, especially at the technical offices in Pontedera, which had moved to Biella during the period of the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (English: Italian Social Republic). There, Piaggio technicians studied this problem. After the end of the Second World War, the Regno d’Italia (English: Kingdom of Italy) – which became Repubblica Italiana (English: Italian Republic) after the referendum of 2nd June 1946 – was devastated. The railways and road infrastructure were in a pitiful state. There was a serious lack of public vehicles and it was essential for the country to provide the population with cheap, practical, and fuel-efficient vehicles so that communications and travel could be resumed.
Already in 1944, a motorbike with these characteristics had been produced, the MP5, called ‘Paperino’ (English: Donald Duck), but this motorbike did not satisfy Enrico Piaggio, the owner of Piaggio, together with his brother Armando. They asked engineer Corradino D’Ascanio to revise the design. Armando Piaggio did not like the Paperino at all and, together with his collaborator, Mario D’Este, created the MP6 in April 1946, which took the name Vespa (English: Wasp) because of its shape.

MP5 ‘Paperino’ preserved at the Piaggio museum.
Source: vespaforever
MP6, the Vespa prototype.
Source: pinterest @First Versions

On 23rd April 1946, the new vehicle was patented under the name of Motocicletta a Complesso Razionale di Organi ed Elementi con Telaio Combinato con Parafanghi e Cofano Ricoprenti tutta la Parte Meccanica, a real long name meant to designate a fully metallic bodywork. Mass production was immediately started for 2,000 Vespa 98s with a 98 cm3 engine.

Vespa 98, the first mass-produced Vespa. It had a 98 cm3 engine.

There is an urban legend that claims that the Vespa‘s wheels and engine were the tail wheel and starter engine of the Italian Piaggio P.108 four-engine bomber, respectively, but no aeronautical components were actually used on the Vespa.

The vehicle was very successful. 19,822 had been produced by 1948 and new versions with 125 and 150 cm3 engines were developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s. The vehicle was also successful abroad. In 1951, the French ACMAAteliers de Construction de Motocycles et Accessoires (English: Workshops for the Construction of Motorbikes and Accessories) workshops began license production of the Vespa. In later years, it was produced by Messerschmitt and Hoffmann in Germany, Douglas in Great Britain, MISA in Belgium and Moto Vespa S.A. in Spain. In a short time, the Vespa was produced in 13 countries and marketed in 114.

The first military Vespa

In the early 1950s, the French army needed a light and robust vehicle capable of carrying an anti-tank weapon, for units deployed in Indochina that had to deal against the badly armed Viet Minh communist militias. The scooter was preferred in favor of heavier vehicles because it was light, agile and robust and could be parachuted into inaccessible areas or behind enemy lines. Thus, the Piaggio Vespa Troupes Aéro Portées 56 was born, to be followed three years later by the 59 model used by the Légion Etrangère (English: French Foreign Legion) and paratroopers.

Vespa T.A.P. 56.
Source: vespa tecnica
Vespa T.A.P. 59.
Source: vespa tecnica
Vespa T.A.P. dropped by parachute.
Source; vintagescooters



The chassis was reinforced by a metal tube that surrounded the vehicle and served to protect it from impacts and to support the side ammunition carriers. The front mudguard was much smaller than on other Vespe. Above it, there was a rack supported by four bolts fixed to the reinforcing tube at the front of the ‘shield’ – the term ‘shield’ on the Vespa refers to the sheet metal that protected the rider and on which the handlebar was mounted -.

Frontal image of the Vespa T.A.P., in which the ‘shield’ without the rifle is clearly visible.
Source: automotorinews
This photograph shows the handlebar, odometer and spare wheel.
Source: vespa tecnica

Underneath the shield were two sturdy independent brackets that acted as a tripod and were put into position by rotating them outwards. On the inside of the shield were two slots that served to hook the parachute.

On the left side of the shield was an open hole through which the cannon was placed. The hole was reinforced with a leather padding held by rivets that prevented the cannon from rubbing against the plate.

The rifle was fixed under the saddle on a special metal trapeze; the saddle could be opened sideways to allow the cannon to be removed from the vehicle and be used as a field weapon.

The hole was reinforced with a leather rim held by rivets to prevent damaging friction between the rifle and the shield.
Metal trapeze, located under the saddle, which was used to support the rifle.
Source: vespa tecnica

The rear of the vehicle was left open and a rubber mud flap was inserted in place of the sheet metal, which also acted as a plate holder.

The rubberized splash guard that also fulfilled the task of a number plate holder.
Source: vintagescooters

Under the chassis, there were reinforcements protecting the engine and muffler and also metal-coated rubber padding to prevent the vehicle from breaking during parachute jumps.

Metal-coated rubber reinforcements under the hull.
Source: vespa tecnica

The military Vespa was delivered in two colors, sand yellow or dark green. The Vespa could carry a small one-wheeled trolley to transport useful material. The only difference between the two models was that in the 56, the ACMA badge, located on the inside of the shield, was metal while on the 59, it was plastic.

Vespa T.A.P. with its single-wheel trolley.
Source: la stampa


The engine was the same as on the Vespa VL3 “Struzzo” (English: Ostrich), a 150 cm3 single-cylinder two-stroke engine with a three-speed gearbox. The transmission was modified by making the gear ratios shorter to adapt the Vespa to carry the greater weight. The carburettor was also changed from a Dell’Orto MA 19 to a Gurtner. The only engine difference between the models 56 and 59 was that, in the former, the cylinder cover was made of aluminum while, in the latter, it was made of sheet metal.

The Vespa could reach a top speed of 66 km/h and had a range of 200 km, which could be increased thanks to the two oil and fuel tanks carried on the luggage rack.

Engine of Vespa T.A.P. This was a modified Vespa VL3 ‘Struzzo’ engine.
Source: vespa tecnica


Although this vehicle is often called the Vespa Bazooka on the internet, it was actually armed with a US-made M20 recoilless rifle of 75 mm caliber. The weapon could not fire while mounted on the vehicle. It had to be dismounted from it and used as a field weapon; the M20 rifle was mounted on the tripod of the M1917A1 machine gun.

M20 recoilless rifle on the tripod of the M1917A1 machine-gun used by Ethiopian soldiers during the Korean War.

The breech is constructed so that, on ignition of the propellant charge, the resultant gasses are allowed to escape to the rear through orifices in the breechblock, thereby eliminating recoil. The gas escape orifices are so designed that the momentum of gas discharge effectively counteracts the momentum of recoil and the angular momentum induced by the motion of the fired shell, and the rifle remains motionless. The M20 had a depression angle of -27° and an elevation angle of +65°.

The M20 was developed in 1944, being used by US forces in the final parts of the Second World War. The rifle was later used during the Korean War in the early 1950s, but there it showed its limitations as an anti-tank weapon, as it could not penetrate the T-34/85 tanks used by North Korean forces. After this, the M20 was intended for use as an infantry support gun and to destroy bunkers. Being a light weapon, with a total weight of 75 kg together with the tripod, it was easily transportable. The rifle was used by French forces during the First Indochina War after 1946, while the Chinese versions, named Type 52 and Type 56, were used by the North Vietnamese army and Viet Cong guerrillas during the Vietnam War.

French paratroopers with one carrying the M20 recoilless rifle.
Source: vespa tecnica


The ammunition was carried in six ammunition boxes placed in groups of three on either side of the Vespa, that could hold one shell each. The special feature of the 75 mm rounds in the M20 rifle was the perforated casing, which was used to let propellant gasses escape into the barrel chamber. The rifle used various shells , such as the M309 High Explosive (HE) grenade, weighing 6.53 kg, with a TNT charge of 0.63 kg; the M310 High Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT) grenade, weighing 5.94 kg, which had a useful range of 400 meters and penetrating up to 100 mm of armor; and the M311 Smoke (WP) grenade, weighing 6.84 kg, which was intended to create smoke screens but could also be used to fire on enemy soldiers. There were also training and inert grenades.

HE and WP shells had a muzzle velocity of 301 m/s while the HEAT rounds had a muzzle velocity of 304 m/s.

Ammunition for the M20 recoilless rifle
Name Type Muzzle velocity in m/s Weight (kg) Penetration in mm
M309 High-Explosive 301 6.53 //
M310 High-Explosive Anti Tank 304 5.94 100
M311 Smoke 301 6.84 6.84
M310 HEAT grenade, note the perforated casing.
Source: wikipedia
M309 HE grenade.
Source: wikipedia


The Vespa was usually driven by a single soldier, but there could be a passenger if necessary, although the added weight certainly affected the ride.

French paratrooper on a Vespa T.A.P. during training.

Operational Use

Between 600 and 800 Piaggio Vespa T.A.P. 56 and 59 were built from 1956 to 1959. They did not participate in the war in Indochina, which had ended in 1954. It was used by paratroopers and the French Foreign Legion in the Algerian War, a conflict that lasted between 1954 and 1962, fought between French forces and Algerian independence fighters, who eventually won the war, which led to the independence of the country.

The M20 rifle carried by the Vespa was very useful for destroying the fortifications and light armored vehicles of the Armée de Libération nationale (English: National Liberation Army – NLA -) i.e. the Algerian Independence Army. However, there is no further information on the use of the Vespa in Algeria or on other fronts.

It is unclear when these were withdrawn from service.

Vespe T.A.P. ready to be loaded onto a plane to be deployed in Algeria.
French soldiers with some Vespe T.A.P. near Bizerte.
French paratrooper in Algeria poses in front of a Vespa T.A.P. The recoilless rifle is missing.


Due to lack of information, it is difficult to provide an assessment of the vehicle as a military asset to the French forces. As it appears, the Vespa T.A.P. was not a great success in the military but, today, it is highly sought after by collectors. In 2020, a Vespa T.A.P. 56 was sold by Ruote da Sogno, a Italian classic car and motorcycle dealer, for €40,000.


Vespa T.A.P. in tan camo. Illustrations by the illustrious Godzilla funded by our Patreon Campaign.
Vespa T.A.P. in green camo. Illustrations by the illustrious Godzilla funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Specifications of the Piaggio Vespa T.A.P. 56

Dimensions (Length, Width and Height) 1.76 x 0.69 x 1.11 m
Weight 115 kg
Engine Two-stroke single cylinder 150 cm3
Maximum speed 66 km/h
Range 200 km
Armament M20 recoilless rifle
Ammunition Six 75 mm grenades
Crew 1 – 2
Production Between 600 and 800 units


Roberto Leandri, Luigi Frisinghelli and Giorgio Notari “Vespa Tecnica 4. Record and special production” Fornacette 2001
Department of the Army “75-mm Rifle M20” Washington 1948
Roberto Leandri, Luigi Frisinghelli and Giorgio Notari “Vespa Tecnica 1. 1946 to 1955” Pontedera 1998

Has Own Video WW2 German Tank Destroyer Prototypes

Entwicklungsfahrzeug 25 (E 25)

German Reich (1942)
Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun – Possibly Up To 5 Prototypes Built

During the Second World War, the Germans made extensive efforts to introduce a standardization of parts in tank and armored vehicle production. This was, to a limited extent, achieved with the Panther and Tiger II, which shared a number of parts. But, in general, the Germans had to rely on several different tank chassis with different engines, transmissions, guns, and running gears, which created a nightmare for their logistical support. In 1942, Oberbaurat H. E. Kniepkamp proposed the introduction of an entirely new series of armored vehicles, which were to have many interchangeable components. While the overall project led nowhere, some attempts were made by the war’s end, even allegedly creating a few experimental chassis, such as the E 25.

Today, only a few drawings of the E 25’s alleged design exist. Source: Panzer Tracts No.20-1 Paper Panzers

Early Attempts For Standardization

During the early development of the Panzerwaffe (English: German Tank Army Branch), the Germans tested various tank designs. As the German engineers and industry lacked any knowledge of tank design, these early attempts were vital for gaining valuable experience. In addition, these experiments, evaluations, and testing helped sort out which designs were suited for use and which were not. At that time, there were some unsuccessful attempts to develop a common chassis that would help reduce development time and lower production costs. Wa Prüf 6 (the office of the German Army’s Ordnance Department responsible for designing tanks and other motorized vehicles) wanted to redesign the Panzer IV Ausf.C in order to be equipped with the newly developed Panzer III torsion bar suspension. For this reason, at the start of June 1937, Krupp, at that time the sole Panzer IV manufacturer, was asked to cease any further work on the Panzer IV chassis. However, the development of the Panzer III Ausf.E chassis was running at a slow pace due to the introduction of a new torsion bar suspension and transmission. It was estimated that the first experimental chassis could not be built prior to April 1938. As there was a great demand for Panzer IV tanks, in October 1937, Krupp was informed to continue working on and producing Panzer IVs in their current form, which would remain basically the same until the end of the war.

Every newly developed Panzer series introduced new improvements over the predecessor (such as better engines, armaments, suspension designs, etc.). By the start of the war, the Germans had in their inventory four different tank designs. This did not include the Czechoslovakian tanks that the Germans also pressed into service. German industry was also highly unprepared for a prolonged war, as it lacked production capabilities to mass-produce tanks and other armored vehicles.

The early Panzer I and Panzer II were deemed poorly armed and were to be replaced by the Panzer III and IV. These two were specifically designed to unify different combat roles. The Panzer III, armed with the 3.7 cm gun, was intended to deal with enemy armor, while the Panzer IV’s 7.5 cm gun’s job was to destroy fortified positions, both acting within Panzer battalions. Why the Germans did not simply use one chassis but with different armaments is not quite clear, as this early tank development period is not always well documented.

Oberbaurat Kniepkamp’s Entwicklungsfahrzeug Projects

By 1942, Germany’s war industry was in disarray, as the frontline troops constantly required more and more materials and equipment, which the German industry failed to deliver in the required quantities. To complicate the whole situation, even more, the usage of several different tank designs and the introduction of yet new ones caused huge stress on an already overburdened industry. The reduction of the number of different tank designs and the introduction of standardization were seen as possible ways out of this precarious situation for the Germans. This was something that Oberbaurat H. E. Kniepkamp, who was the civilian head of the automotive design of Wa Prüf 6 proposed in May 1942. According to him, the tanks and other armored vehicles that at that point were in service were to be replaced by new designs. To save development time and reduce costs, these were to share as many construction components between themselves as possible. In theory, this would enable the development of a series of vehicles that performed various different roles and shared most parts, such as suspensions, engines, automotive parts, etc.

These new vehicles were to be classified depending on their weight. A series of vehicles with a weight ranging from 25 to 30 (or up to 50 tonnes, depending on the source) was to be developed in order to replace the existing tank destroyers. The German Army was highly dependent on these self-propelled anti-tank vehicles, which were often simple improvisations and not dedicated designs. In most cases, this meant that an anti-tank gun with some minor armor protection was placed on any available chassis.

The new replacement vehicles were to have a low silhouette, be protected by angled armor, and well armed. As they would share components with other vehicles, the production would be significantly rationalized and simplified. Wa Prüf 6 approved this project in April 1943. The firm Argus Werke from Karlsruhe was contacted to begin working on the new design. Argus Werke’s development team was led by Dr. Klaue. In the sources, other firms, such as Adler and Porsche, are said to have also been included.


The whole program received the Entwicklungs-Serien (English: Developmental Series) designation. It is this vehicle that Argus Werke was tasked with developing and was designated E 25. The capital E stands for Entwicklungsfahrzeug (English: Development vehicle) and the number 25 represents (at least in theory) its overall tonnage.


A very important fact to mention here is that the E 25’s precise design characteristics are not completely clear. There are barely any sources that go into any detail regarding its overall performance and components. To further complicate the research on this vehicle, many internet sources often present invented, wrong, or untested claims. Basically, any information on the E 25 vehicle must be taken with a dose of skepticism and a grain of salt given the general lack of sources.


Not much is known about the E 25’s hull design. It would have consisted of the front-mounted gun position, central crew compartment, and rear-positioned engine and drive unit. The vehicle was relatively small, with a length of 5.56 m, a width of 3.41 m, and a height of 2.03 m.

Suspension and Running Gear

The suspension of the E 25 consisted of five 1 m diameter rubber cushioned steel tired and overlapping road wheels. In addition, there was a front idler and rear-mounted drive sprocket. To reduce forward weight and thus relieve pressure on the front part of the suspension, the drive unit (with transmission) was to be placed to the rear. This was a relatively huge issue with a number of German vehicles which were nose-heavy. In the case of the later Panzer IV/70(V) equipped with the long L/70 gun, the extra front weight caused huge problems with the overburdened suspension. Another benefit of relocating the drive components to the rear was that it would be possible to place thicker armor plates in the front. The use of a rear-positioned drive unit was not new to the Germans. This installation was actually tested prior to the war on the Neubaufahrzeug (English New Construction Vehicle), but proved to be too problematic and was abandoned. The tracks were 70 cm wide and had an estimated ground clearance of 0.51 m.

The Neubaufahrzeug was one of the first German tanks to experiment with a rear-positioned drive sprocket. In its case, the whole installation proved problematic and was abandoned. Source: Wikimedia Commons

In order to save production time and in the hope of providing a larger interior space, the E 25 was meant to use an external suspension unit. Each of the five wheels was suspended using individual bell crank units which consisted of an enclosed spring and a shock absorber. In theory, this meant easier production and replacement of damaged parts. While the external suspension was not a common sight in German inventory, it was used on the huge Panzerjäger Tiger (P) ‘Ferdinand/Elefant’ with rather limited success.

An alleged drawing of the E 25’s external and individual (for each wheel) suspension units. Source: 25.htm

The Engine and Transmission

Initially, the E 25 was to be powered by a Maybach V-12 HL 110 400 hp strong engine. In late March 1945, a decision was made to use the stronger HL 101 550 hp@3,800 rpm engine instead. Given the obscure status of the E 25’s development program, not much is known about its estimated overall drive performance. Some authors, such as D. Nešić (Naoružanje Drugog Svetskog Rata-Nemačka), mention that this vehicle, with a weight of 27 tonnes, could achieve a maximum speed of up to 57 km/h. In addition, the operational range is listed as 210 km. How accurate these numbers are is unclear.

Work on the automotive components, such as the transmission, final drive, etc. was carried out by Zahnradfabrik-Friedrichs-Haven in 1944. It was estimated that the first powerplant units were to be completed in April 1945, but if this was ever achieved is not clear.

The Superstructure

The E 25’s superstructure was to be constructed using angled armor plates. The angled shape of the superstructure provided thicker effective armor and also increased the chance of deflecting enemy shots. Also, by using larger one-piece plates, it was much stronger and also easier to produce. These would be connected by welding, except for the roof plate, which would have been likely held in place using bolts. All fully enclosed German anti-tank vehicles had this feature. This was done so that the plate could be easily removed to facilitate easier maintenance and replacement of spare parts, such as the gun mount.

The E 25’s drawing does not show any kind of observation ports. In reality, this vehicle would have been at least provided with a front driver visor. To save building time and somewhat reduce cost, side visors were often removed on some German vehicles near the end of the war. It would not be surprising if the E 25 was not provided with side vision ports. To compensate for this obvious drawback, a command cupola or observation periscope may have been provided instead, although the drawings do not show these either.

The existing drawings of the E 25 show it without any vision ports for the crew. The drawing also lacks many other details, especially to the rear and top (such as the exhaust pipe, top hatches, etc.) Source: Panzer Tracts No.20-1 Paper Panzers

The top part of the superstructure would have most likely been a copy of the one on the Jagdpanzer 38(t) or other designs, such as the Panzer IV/70(V). It would need at least two escape hatches placed on both sides of the upper superstructure, one on the right for the loader or commander and one to the left for the remaining crewmember. If no command cupola was to be used, a replacement for it would be a small rotating periscope that would be placed on the commander’s hatch. An even easier solution would be scissor telescopes. The downside was that, in doing so, he would have to open the hatch, potentially exposing himself to enemy fire. Lastly, the sliding armored cover for the gunsight would be placed in the front part of the upper superstructure.

Top view of a Panzer IV/70(V). There are two hatches for the crew. The front curved opening was used for the gunner’s sight. A similar layout may have been used on the E 25. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Panzer IV/70(V)
In comparison, a top view of the Jagdpanzer 38(t). While generally similar, the major difference was the position of the commander’s hatch. Source:

Armor Protection

The E 25’s frontal armor plate was 50 mm thick, with the upper plate sloped at 50° and the lower hull at 55° angle. The upper side plate armor was 30 mm thick and placed at a 52° angle. The hull side armor plates were also 30 mm thick. The rear armor was 30 mm thick, while the top and bottom were 20 mm thick.

This armor protection was rather weak by 1945 standards, given the introduction of strong anti-tank guns by the Allies. Given the limitation of the chassis to around 25 tonnes, adding thick armor plates was simply not possible. The E 25’s best defense would be its relatively small size and the highly angled armor plates used in its construction.

While not specified in the sources, this vehicle may have used the 5 mm thick armor skirts (Schürzen) that would cover its sides.


The drawings of the E 25 show it being equipped with a 7.5 cm L/70 gun. Different versions of the same gun were used on the Panther and Panzer 70/IV(V) vehicles. It had good anti-armor penetration power. When firing a standard armor-piercing round at a distance of some 500 m, it could penetrate 124 mm of armor placed at an angle of 30°. Using the rare tungsten rounds, the armor penetration at 500 m at an angle of 30° was increased to 174 mm.

While almost impossible to know precisely, the gun cradle mount may have been fixed to the front glacis plate. Normally, the gun cradle was fixed to the bottom of the vehicle. An exception to this rule was the Jagdpanzer 38(t). In order to provide the lower profile of the Jagdpanzer 38(t), the gun cradle was fixed to the glacis instead. This necessitated that the gun be placed slightly off-center to the right to provide room for crew and ammunition. A similar installation was done on the Panzer IV/70(V). A gun with this mount being placed on the right side would have broken the balance of the vehicle. In order to compensate for this, most of the crew and ammunition would be placed opposite it. The front of the gun was protected by a large gun mantlet, which had a quite similar design to the two previously mentioned vehicles.

A front view of the E 25 drawings, where little to no details of this part of the vehicle is shown. Source: Panzer Tracts No.20-1 Paper Panzers
For comparison, the Panzer IV/70(V) armed with the L/70 gun used the same gun and possibly the same or a similar gun mantlet. Source:

Despite the fact the E 25 drawings show it being armed with a 7.5 cm gun, this project never received a precise armament proposal. The 7.5 cm L/70 would have been the most logical choice, as it was already in production and was a good gun. Apparently, there was a proposal to use an autoloader feed system (for the 7.5 cm L/70) that would provide a firing rate of up to 40 rounds per minute. Such weapon systems were tested by the Germans at the end of the war, but not much came of them. Installing such a mechanism offered huge firepower on paper. In reality, it would have likely been limited in effectiveness on the E 25, as the small internal volume would limit the total amount of spare rounds carried inside it. Another issue would be the recoil, which would greatly affect the precision of the gun.

Supposedly, other guns, such as the 8.8 cm L/71 or a 10.5 cm howitzer, were also considered. Authors such as W. S. Carson (Light tanks of Germany in World War II) mention that the E 25’s main armament was most likely meant to consist of the 10 cm PAW 1000 smooth-bore anti-tank gun. A prototype of this gun was built and tested near the war’s end, but nothing came of it.

The experimental 10 cm PAW 1000 smooth-bore anti-tank gun was mounted on a PaK 38 carriage. Source: P. Chamberlain and T.J. Gander Enzyklopadie Deutscher Waffen 1939-1945 Handwaffen

Internet sources often depict the E 25 with a top-mounted cupola armed with a 2 cm cannon. It is unclear if this was a real feature or just a post-war fabrication. The Germans never employed such small cupolas, as their installation would be impossible given the limited space available in such tiny turrets. It is also possible that such an installation may have been proposed though.

It is unclear if a secondary machine gun was to be provided for the E 25. The existing drawing does not have the front ball mount machine gun port. This does not necessarily mean that it would not have had one. A possible secondary armament option may have included the Rundumfeuer machine gun mount, which would be positioned on top of the superstructure. With this specially designed-mount, the machine gun could be operated from inside the vehicle. This mount provided an all-around firing arc. In addition, the operator did not have to expose himself to fire when he was using the machine gun. However, he still needed to go outside to manually load the machine gun. The machine gun was protected by two small angled shields. This weapon system was standard equipment on the Jagdpanzer 38(t) and somewhat less common on the StuG III and StuG IV series.

Close up view of the Rundumfeuer machine gun mount. Source:

The use of Nahverteidigungswaffe (close-quarters defense weapon) was also possible. In essence, this was a close-range grenade thrower that was to be used against infantry. Only small numbers were produced during the war, despite the fact that almost all German armored vehicles were to receive these in the later stages of the war.

The Nahverteidigungswaffe was essentially a small grenade thrower, intended to be used against enemy infantry. Limited numbers were built and delivered for use. Source:


There is no information about the E 25’s number of crew members. Given the similarities with other German anti-tank vehicles, such as the Panzer IV/70(V) or the smaller Jagdpanzer 38(t), this likely consisted of four. These included the commander, gunner, loader/radio operator, and driver.

The precise position of these four crewmembers may have differed greatly depending on the internal layout of the E 25. If the design copied the Jagdpanzer 38(t)’s internal design, then the commander would have been placed on the right side of the vehicle. Opposite him would have sat the driver, the gunner, and the loader further back. In the Panzer IV/70(V), thanks to its larger interior, the loader was positioned on the right side. The remaining three crewmembers were placed on the opposite side.

The Fate of the Project

The overall development and design work on the E 25 ran at a slow pace. By 1945, while some progress and even production of parts began, the overall program appears to have failed to gain any major interest from the German Army. Given the project’s late introduction, not much is known about its final realization. It is known that an order for a few experimental prototypes was given. It is estimated that at least some of these may have been constructed. If these were fully completed prototypes that could be used in testing or incomplete vehicles is not fully clear.

From this point, what happened to the whole E 25 program is a bit unclear, as sources provide different accounts. Authors T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.20-1 Paper Panzers) mention that, after the war, during Oberbaurat Kniepkamp’s interrogations by the Allies, he claimed that at least three hulls were built by Alkett in Berlin-Spandau. As these were never found by the Allies, this raises questions about the veracity of Kniepkamp’s testimony. Several different explanations may exist to explain what happened to these vehicles that Oberbaurat Kniepkamp mentioned. There is a possibility that the Soviets may have gotten to these vehicles before the Western Allies. This leads to other questions, such as if the Soviets have even bothered to drag out the unfinished hulls and conceal them from the Western Allies. Another explanation is that the Germans themselves destroyed these to avoid capture. Yet again, given the chaotic state of Germany in May of 1945, it seems unlikely that they would have had time or will to do so. It is also possible that there was a simple bureaucratic or intelligence mistake by the Allies, simply misplacing or misidentifying these hulls.

Lastly, the whole story of the built hulls (or complete vehicles) may have been an invention told by Kniepkamp. This would not be surprising, as many German scientists and engineers wanted to gain attention from the Western Allies after the war. This was mainly done in the hope of possibly being recruited by them or avoiding consequences for their work or crimes as part of the Third Reich. Something like this was not unheard of, as many German rocket scientists were later employed in the American rocket program. This is speculation at best, given the lack of proof, but an interesting possibility to consider.

Author W. S. Carson (Light tanks of Germany in World War II) mentions that Argus may have managed to build a few hulls in mid-January 1945. He also states that not a single operational E 25 was built. D. Nešić (Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka) mentions that five prototypes were fully completed and were transported to Kattowitz for further testing in January 1945.

Basically, the production of a few prototype vehicles may have been initiated in late 1944 and early 1945. If they were ever fully completed is unclear, but it seems unlikely given the collapse of German industry at that time.

E 25 in Games

In recent years, the E 25 has appeared in some games, most noticeably World of Tanks (WoT). Because of its status within the game, the E 25 has received a level of fame beyond its actual history. Because of this, a huge level of interest but also misinformation has been created about the E 25.

Their interpretation of the E 25 is armed with the 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70. It is powered by a Maybach HL 230 TRM P30 700 hp engine with a maximum speed of 65 km/h. The most noticeable differences compared to the historical information available are the use of the small auxiliary 2 cm armed cupola and the reduced size. This model also appeared in some mods for games, such as Battlefield Forgotten Hope and Blitzkrieg GZM 11.

WoT version of the E 25. Source: 25.html
A similar design was used by the Forgotten Hope mod. Source: 25?file=E_25.jpg


The whole Entwicklungs-Serien started with a good premise, hoping to standardize parts between the different armored vehicles. The Germans did attempt to introduce some kind of standardization, but it was never fully successful. On the other hand, the whole Entwicklungs-Serien concept was proposed too late to have any real chance to be implemented. By the second half of the war, the German war industry was simply overcommitted to the production of existing vehicles. Slowing down or even stopping the production of some vehicles in order to introduce the E-series was something that the Germans could not afford to do. It would have taken time, maybe even years, to fully implement it.

The other question would be if the E 25 was really worth pursuing. It had a rather unimpressive armor, used the same armament as other vehicles already in production, and would require time to be put into production. Other vehicles, such as the Panzer IV/70(V), while not perfect, had better front armor protection and used the same gun. It used already-produced components, so it was a much cheaper option. While many internet sources give some vehicles, such as the E 25, near superweapon status, in reality, it would most likely have ended up as an overly complicated method of trying to simplify production.

E 25. Illustration by Pavel Alexe.

E-25 Technical specification

Crew 4 (commander, gunner, loader, and driver)
Weight 27 tonnes
Dimensions Length 5.66 m, Width 3.41 m, Height 2.03 m
Engine Maybach HL 101 550 hp @3,800 rpm
Speed 57 km/h
Primary Armament Possibly the 7.5 cm L/70
Armor 20 to 50 mm


D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2001) Panzer Tracts No.20-1 Paper Panzers
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
P. Chamberlain and T.J. Gander (2005) Enzyklopadie Deutscher waffen 1939-1945 Handwaffen

Has Own Video WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Panzer IV/70(V)

German Reich (1944)
Tank Destroyer – 930 to 940 Built

The further development of the StuG series led to the introduction of the Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyer. The Jagdpanzer IV was initially meant to be armed with the long 7.5 cm L/70 gun. As this gun was not available in sufficient numbers, as a temporary solution, the vehicle was armed with the shorter L/48 gun instead. In early 1944, the production of the long gun was finally increased and it could be used for this purpose. This would lead to the introduction of a slightly modified Jagdpanzer IV which was renamed Panzer IV/70(V). Production started in August 1944 and, by March 1945, some 930 to 940 vehicles were built.

Panzer IV/70 (V). Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

The Development

The introduction of the Jagdpanzer IV into service provided the German Army with an effective anti-tank vehicle that had a small silhouette, was well-protected, and had a good gun. Work on such a vehicle was initiated by Waffenamt (Eng. Army Weapon’s Office) in September 1942. Initially designated Sturmgeschütze Neue Art (Eng. New Type Assault Gun), the new vehicle was to be armed with the 7.5 cm KwK L/70 gun and protected with 100 mm frontal and 40 to 50 mm of side armor. It was intended to have the lowest possible height, a top speed of 25 km/h, 500 mm ground clearance, and a weight of up to 26 tonnes. It is somewhat ironic that this vehicle, initially intended as a replacement for the StuG III, ended up being hijacked by the Panzer branch.

However, the initial plans to use the 7.5 cm L/70 gun could not be fulfilled, as its production was limited and reserved for the Panther tank program. While the short-barrelled Jagdpanzer IV was slowly entering production in January 1944, a meeting was held to discuss the use of the larger gun. For this reason, one prototype was to be built and tested to establish the feasibility of the concept once enough guns were available.

The prototype of this new vehicle was completed in early April 1944. It was, in essence, just a modified Jagdpanzer IV (chassis number 320162) armed with the long gun. Of course, some internal structural changes had to be made in order to fit the larger gun. The new vehicle was presented to Hitler on 20th April 1944. Hitler was impressed and insisted on a monthly production order of 800 such vehicles. The Waffenamt was slightly more realistic and issued a production quota of 2020 vehicles (both the L/48 and L/70 versions) to be completed by the end of April 1945, closer to 160 vehicles per month.

The first prototype of the vehicle that would later be known as Panzer IV/70(V). Source:


Throughout its development and service life, the new tank hunter received several different designations. This was nothing unusual by German standards. The initial designation for it was Sturmgeschütz auf Pz.Kpfw.IV. This name derived from its original purpose as a replacement vehicle for the StuG III. On Hitler’s own personal insistence, this vehicle was to be renamed to Panzer IV lang (V). The V stood for the manufacturer, Vogtlandische Maschinenfabrik AG (Vomag), while the word lang (Eng. Long) referred to the L/70 gun. This order was issued on 18th July 1944.

In October 1944, this designation was slightly changed to Panzer IV lang (V) mit 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70. Starting from November 1944, it was referred to as Panzer IV/70(V) – Panzerwagen 604/10 (V) mit 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70. Lastly, in January 1945, the term Jagdpanzer was once again used. The full designation was Jagdpanzer IV lang (V) (Sd.Kfz.162). To avoid confusion with the previous model and to be consistent with most sources, this article will refer to the vehicle as the Panzer IV/70(V).

This vehicle is also known by the nickname ‘Guderian Ente’ (Eng. Guderian’s Duck) given to it by its crews. This is often described as being related to its slower speed and reduced mobility in the sources. According to W. J. Spielberger (Military Vehicle Prints), this nickname was translated as ‘Guderian’s Hoax’ and is related to his refusal to accept this project. The word Ente in German (and in some other languages) can refer to as false news, hence Spielberger’s interpretation of this term.


Given that Vomag was already involved in the Jagdpanzer IV’s production, it was logical that this company would produce the new Panzer IV/70 (V). Production plans were quite ambitious, especially taking into account that this occurred in late 1944, when the Allied bombing campaign had slowly grinded down the German industry to literal dust. The lack of resources and a logistical collapse were also notorious during this late part of the war. Many newly built vehicles never reached the front. Nevertheless, despite all the hardship, Vomag managed to keep up with the planned production, as can be seen in the following production table from T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Jagdpanzer IV).

The month of production Planned production quota Actual production numbers
August 60 57
September 90 41
October 100 104
November 150 178
December 180 180
January 200 185
February 160 135
March 180 50
Total 1,120 930

Up to March 1945, the production numbers were often reached and sometimes even exceeded the planned quotas. Production dropped in March 1945 before ultimately stopping. That month, Vomag’s facilities were completely devastated by an Allied bombing raid. Given the chaotic state of Germany at that time, there was no time nor resources to restart production. While the production could not be restarted, there were some 30 hulls and 10 superstructures left available. Some of these were completed likely in April and issued for frontline use. It is possible that at least 10 more vehicles were completed.
In July 1944, Adolf Hitler insisted that production of the Panzer IV was to be terminated in February 1945 at the latest. Instead, the companies that were initially involved in the Panzer IV production were to focus on the Panzer IV/70 tank hunter. Given the insufficient production numbers of tanks such as the Panther and the Tiger II, the Panzer IV could simply not be phased out. This order was never implemented in reality.


The Panzer IV/70(V) inherited the Jagdpanzer IV’s overall design. In essence, it was the same vehicle with better armament. Still, some modifications were necessary in order to fit the larger gun, while other changes were implemented in order to reduce production costs or to reduce the usage for materials that were in short supply. The Panzer IV/70(V) was built using chassis taken from Panzer IV Ausf.H and Panzer IV Ausf.J tanks.

The Panzer IV Ausf.H and J chassis served as the base for this new vehicle. Source:


The overall hull design was mostly unchanged from its predecessor. Some minor modifications were introduced during the production run. For example, the air intake vents on the brake inspection hatches were replaced with simple handles. They had become unnecessary, as the Germans had added ducts that extracted the smoke to the ventilation ports of the engine compartment. Their locking mechanism was also altered slightly. Another small modification was adding a vertical towing bracket which was welded to the rear part of the hull. This was a late introduction, first appearing in December 1944.

This vehicle uses early brake inspection hatches with ventilation ports on them. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
It is difficult to find a proper photograph that shows in more detail the Panzer IV/70(V)’s front hull, especially the brake inspection hatches. In this photograph, the soldier on the left actually holds the handle from the left brake inspection hatch. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Jagdpanzer IV
Drawing of brake inspection hatches. The larger one to the right (number 3) is the original Panzer IV hatch. The remaining two were used on the Jagdpanzer IV and Panzer IV/70. The air intake vents (number 2) would be replaced with a simple handle (number 1). Source: J. Ledwoch. Panzer IV/70 (V)

Suspension and Running Gear

Given the added extra weight of the gun and armor, the Panzer IV/70(V)’s suspension became overburdened and thus prone to breakdowns. The rubber rims on the two front wheels wore out quickly. In addition, steering the vehicle on the uneven ground became problematic.

The problem with the suspension was already an issue with the slightly lighter Jagdpanzer IV, but became a serious problem for the later vehicle. One of the earliest attempts to resolve this issue was a proposal to move the road wheels’ positions to the front by 10 cm. It was hoped that this would shift the center of gravity a bit. This idea was flawed from the start, as the front road wheels were already too close to the drive sprocket. It would also necessitate huge changes to the hull design. In turn, this would cause delays in production, and thus it was never implemented.

The only real attempt that gave some positive results regarding the overburden suspension was the introduction of steel-tired road wheels. The two front road wheels were replaced with this new model. In addition, lighter tracks were to replace the ones in use. Both of these measures were introduced starting in September 1944. Of course, the older vehicles were at some point likewise provided with these reinforced wheels to help cope with the added weight.

The number of return rollers would be reduced to three. In addition, these were made of steel due to the lack of rubber. Lastly, different types of idlers were used depending on the availability of spare parts.

The first-built vehicles were not provided with steel-tired road wheels and had the standard four-return roller configuration. Being nose heavy, the first suspension boogie was under huge pressure. This led to quicker wear of the rubber rims. Source:
Despite the introduction of the steel-tired road wheels, not all vehicles received these. This particular vehicle does not have them but has three return rollers. Source:
This vehicle has two steel-tired road wheels. One of them appears to be damaged. Source:


The engine compartment received no major modifications. It was still powered by the Maybach HL 120 TRM which produced 265 hp @ 2,600 rpm. Given the increase in weight from 24 to 25.8 tonnes, the overall drive performance dropped significantly. The maximum speed was reduced from 40 km/h to 35 km/h. The cross-country speed remained the same, at around 15-18 km/h. While this decrease in maximum speed does not appear as much at the first glance, the Panzer IV/7(V) became difficult to steer and the added weight caused huge stress on the engine itself. With a fuel load of some 470 liters, the operational range was 210 km.

The cylindrical exhaust muffler was replaced with two upright-positioned Flammentoeter (English: flame exhaust mufflers). These were implemented on vehicles produced starting from November 1944. Chain links were attached to the cooling air intake and flap so that they could be manually opened or closed depending on the need.

A good illustration of the changes implemented to the engine exhaust mufflers. Initially, a standard cylindrical exhaust muffler was used. This would be replaced with flame exhaust mufflers. Lastly, their cover was slightly modified during production. Also, note the added vertical towing bracket on the last illustration. Source: И. Мощанский, И. Переяславцев Tank Destroyer Pz.IV/70V)

The Superstructure

The upper superstructure design was mostly the same, except for one major difference which is not obvious and somewhat illogical. The superstructure’s top, despite the use of a larger gun which would require more working space inside the vehicle, was actually lowered by some 30 mm. While not a huge difference, the reason why this was implemented is unknown.

Besides that, other minor improvements were also introduced, mostly near the end of the war. Some vehicles received rain channels which were positioned under the commander and the loader’s hatches. The Panzer IV/70(V) was meant to receive a jib boom crane installation. This required adding five sockets that needed to be welded to its top superstructure. This crane would provide the crews with a means to easily remove heavier components, such as the engine. This was rarely added to the vehicles and appears to be mainly present on vehicles produced near the end of the war.

The design of the sliding gun sight cover was also slightly changed to make it easier to build. Initially, it consisted of two curved single-piece sliding rods. These would be replaced with sliding rods that consisted of many smaller parts.

Some vehicles had spare track link holders added to the sides of the superstructure. It is not clear if these were introduced during production or added by some of the crews as an improvisation.

A good view of the Panzer IV/70(V)’s upper superstructure. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Given its late introduction, pictures of the Panzer IV/70(V) with the jib boom crane installation are hard to come by. Here is a picture of a StuG IV with a jib boom crane. In essence, the installation on the Panzer IV/70(V) would be quite similar if not the same as here. Source: Walter J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its Variants
The leading gun sight cover was also modified. To the left was the one used initially. It would be replaced with a new design that incorporated many segmented parts (on the right). Source: И. Мощанский, И. Переяславцев Tank Destroyer Pz.IV/70V)
Some vehicles had spare track link holders added to the sides of the superstructure. Source: И. Мощанский, И. Переяславцев Tank Destroyer Pz.IV/70V)
Another such example with slightly shortened spare track link holders. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Armor and Protection

The Panzer IV/70(V)’s armor was the same as on its predecessor. It was well protected, with thick and well-angled armor plates. For the lower hull, the upper front armor plate was 80 mm thick at a 45° angle and the lower plate was 50 mm at a 55° angle. The side armor was 30 mm thick, the rear 20 mm, and the bottom 10 mm. The hull crew compartment had 20 mm of bottom armor.

The upper superstructure frontal armor was 80 mm at a 50° angle, the sides were 40 mm at a 30° angle, the rear armor was 30 mm, and the top was 20 mm. The engine compartment design and armor were unchanged from the Panzer IV, with 20 mm all around and 10 mm of top armor.

The 80 mm of front armor was introduced on the Jagdpanzer IV series in May 1944. The later version incorporated a larger gun which led to an increase in weight. Thus, in August 1944, it was proposed to once again use weaker 60 mm thick frontal armor. Even Hitler agreed that the superstructure frontal armor needed to be reduced in thickness in order to save some weight. For unknown reasons, this decision was never implemented.

The Panzer IV/70(V) was initially provided with Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating, but after September 1944, its use was abandoned. Additional 5 mm thick armor plates were also provided for extra protection of the engine compartment’s sides. The Panzer IV/70 (V) could be equipped with additional 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen) covering the sides of the vehicle. They served mainly to protect against Soviet anti-tank rifles. In rarer cases, at the end of the war, these were replaced with Thoma Schürtzen wire mesh. While these were lighter and provided the same level of protection, their use was delayed due to problems with production.

The 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen) cover the side of the vehicle. They served mainly to protect against Soviet anti-tank rifles. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

The crews of some vehicles often added all kinds of improvised armor. These were often reused spare parts, such as tracks and road wheels. Some of the crews added concrete to the front armor plates. The effectiveness of this improvised armor was dubious at best, but these improvised up-armoring jobs were relatively common on other German vehicles, such as the StuG III series.

The crew of this vehicle added concrete on the front superstructure armor. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The Panzer IV/70(V) was rearmed with the stronger 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70 (sometimes referred to as 7.5 cm StuK 42 L/70) gun. The position of the gun was unchanged, as it was placed slightly off-center to the right. Given that it was a much larger gun with stronger recoil forces, some structural changes were needed. For example, the gun mantlet was redesigned in order to save weight. In addition, a hydro-pneumatic equilibrator was installed on the right side of the gun. To provide better gun balance, an iron counterweight was added at the end of the recoil guard. Despite being a considerably longer gun and using stronger rounds, the recoil was only 42 cm. The total weight of the gun itself was 2.2 tonnes. Surprisingly, no ventilation fan was present in the crew compartment. Instead, an air blast mechanism was meant to blow fumes created after firing the gun out the barrel.

Given the longer length of the gun barrel, an external travel lock had to be provided. Its purpose was to help stabilize the gun during traveling. This in turn would help avoid damaging or even misaligning the gun sight. When connected to the travel lock, the gun was raised up at a 13° angle. This was necessary in order to avoid accidentally hitting the ground when driving on uneven ground. While this seems unlikely to happen, the Panzer IV/70(V)’s lower height and longer barrel meant that this was a real possibility. The prototype was initially not provided with a travel lock, but it quickly became apparent that such a device would be needed. In order to free the gun, the gun operator only had to elevate the gun a bit and the travel lock would fall down. This allowed for a quick combat response but also avoided the need for a crew member to exit the vehicle in order to do it manually. The shape of the travel lock was changed during production. Initially, these had a large opening in them. Later built travel locks did not have this opening.

The Panzer IV/70(V)s initially did not have a gun travel lock. Source:
Given the long barrel, the use of a travel lock was required. In order to free the gun, the gun operator only had to elevate the gun a bit and the travel lock would fall down. Source:
A Panzer IV/70 with the later introduced travel lock. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

The elevation of the main gun was –6° to +15° and the traverse was 24°. Here it is important to note that these numbers differ greatly in the sources. These particular numbers were taken from T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Jagdpanzer IV). A muzzle brake would not be added to the gun, as it would create a lot of dust during firing and also increase the cost of construction slightly. Some guns had threaded ends on the barrel for the installation of a muzzle brake. As this was a labor-intensive task, most were likely not provided with such a feature.

The 7.5 cm StuK 42 L/70 could fire a few different types of rounds, including armor-piercing (PzGr 39/42 or 40/42), high-explosive (SpGr 42), and armor-piercing tungsten rounds. While the latter had superb anti-armor penetration power, due to the scarcity of tungsten, these rounds were rarely employed.

Distance: 500 m 1 km 2 km
Standard Armor-piercing round 124 mm 111 mm 89 mm
Armor-piercing tungsten round 174 mm 149 mm n/a

Thanks to this firepower, this gun could effectively engage most Allied tanks up to the war’s end. The maximum firing range of the high-explosive rounds was 5.1 km, while the armor-piercing range was 3 km.

T-38-85 IS-2 M4 Cromwell Churchill
Front 2000 m 800 m 2800 m 3400 m 2000 m
Side 3500 m 2000 m 3500 m 3500 m 3000 m
Rear 3300 m 1000 m 3500 m 3500 m 2000 m
The 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70 Armor penetration (maximum range) table against enemy tanks. Source: T.L. Jentz (Germany’s Panther Tank)

The ammunition load consisted of 55 rounds, but this would be increased to 60. Usually, around 34 were armor-piercing, while the remaining 21 were high-explosive. This could differ depending on the combat need or availability of ammunition.
The 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70 gun used a Sfl.Z.F.1a gun sight which had a magnification of x5 and a field of view of 8°. On some vehicles, the gunner sight was encased into protective covers. Starting from November 1944, one-third of the produced Panzer IV/70(V) were meant to receive the SF 14 Z scissor periscope. In addition, these were also to incorporate the use of an Entfernungs-Messer 0.9 m (Eng. Range finder). Three small connecting points were welded around the commander’s hatch for the installation of this range finder. Due to delays with the delivery of such equipment, the first vehicles mounting this were supplied in March 1945.

A good view of the Panzer IV/70(V) commander and gunner’s periscopes. In addition, notice the three connecting points, with one in front and two to the rear of the commander’s hatch. These were to be used to mount the range finder but were introduced too late to see any real service. Source:

As a secondary weapon, the MG 42 machine gun was retained. The ammunition load for it consisted of 1,950 rounds. In addition, at least one 9 mm submachine gun MP 40 or a later 7.92 mm MP 44 assault rifle was carried inside for crew protection.

Some vehicles were equipped with the Rundumfeuer machine gun mount that was operated from inside the vehicle. This mount provided an all-around firing arc. In addition, the operator did not have to expose himself to fire when he was using the machine gun. However, he still needed to go outside to manually load the machine gun. While this installation was tested on the prototype, it did not see wide use on the Panzer IV/70(V).

The first prototype did receive the Rundumfeuer machine gun mount, but its use appears to have been limited on the later production vehicles. Source:
A destroyed vehicle that was provided with the Rundumfeuer machine gun mount. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

The Panzer IV/70(V) was also equipped with the Nahverteidigungswaffe (Eng. close defense grenade launcher), with some 40 rounds of ammunition (high explosive and smoke rounds), placed on the vehicle’s top. Due to the general lack of resources though, not all vehicles were provided with this weapon. In such cases, the Nahverteidigungswaffe’s opening hole was closed off with a round plate.

The Nahverteidigungswaffe’s firing port was located on the left of the commander’s hatch. When not provided (which was often the case), the opening was simply hidden by an armored cover. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

For defense against infantry that got too close, an unusual weapon attachment named Vorsatz P was provided. This was a curved muzzle attachment for the MP 43/44 assault rifles. With this curved barrel, the loader (who was to be equipped with this weapon attachment) could engage enemy infantry from inside the vehicle without exposing himself. The Vorsatz P barrel was angled at 90°. For installation on armored vehicles, such as the Panzer IV/70(V), a small ball mount was developed. It was to be attached to the top superstructure hatches. For combat use, the assault rifles were to be attached to this ball mount vertically, pointing up. With the extended curved barrel, the maximum firing range was around 15 m. Despite its odd appearance, the system actually worked. This weapon system was introduced too late and was only issued in limited numbers in 1945.

The Vorsatz P curved muzzle attachment for the MP 43/44.


The crew number and position remained unchanged. It consisted of the commander, the gunner, the loader/radio operator, and the driver. The loader’s position was to the left while the remaining three crew members were placed opposite him.

Organization and Distribution to Units

In July 1944, Hitler came up with the idea of using smaller mobile armored formations. Their purpose would be to act as a quick response to enemy attacks. These were the so-called Panzer Brigaden (Eng. Tank Brigades). They were to consist of three 11-vehicle-strong Panther companies and one 11-strong Panzer IV/70(V) company. In addition, they were to be protected by at least 4 anti-aircraft vehicles. Guderian was against the formation of such small units, as they diverted vital resources of men and materiel that were desperately needed by the Panzer Divisions. Regardless, Hitler persisted and some 10 such units were to be formed. A few additional brigades were equipped mainly with Panzer IVs.

The first units to be equipped with a Panzer IV/70(V) company were the 105th and 106th Panzer Brigades in August 1944. A month later, five more such units were formed. These were the 107th, 108th, 109th, 110th, and the Führer Grenadier Brigade. The whole Brigade concept was quickly abandoned and, by November 1944, nearly all such units were absorbed by the existing Panzer Divisions.

Besides these short-lived brigades, the Panzer IV/70(V)s were issued to 10-vehicle strong Panzerjäger Kompanie (Eng. Anti-tank company). Other units, such as the Panzer Grenadier Divisions and schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen (Eng. Heavy anti-tank battalions) were to be slightly stronger, at 14 vehicles. It is worth pointing out that not all units received these in the prescribed number strength. There were often variations in the delivered number of vehicles Besides forming new units, the Panzer IV/70 (V) was also issued as a replacement vehicle to existing formations.

A destroyed vehicle from the Führer Grenadier Brigade lost in January 1945 on the Western Front. Despite most of these brigades being disbanded, the Führer Grenadier Brigade was one of few that did not share this fate. Source: И. Мощанский, И. Переяславцев Tank Destroyer Pz.IV/70V)

The 24th and 116th Panzer Divisions each received 10 vehicles during September and October 1944. As the Eastern Front came under pressure from the Soviets, more Panzer IV/70(V)s were rushed there. The 7th, 13th, and 17th Panzer Divisions each received 21 vehicles, while the 24th Panzer Division received 19 vehicles.

At the start of 1945, the quick collapse of all fronts meant that the Panzer IV/70(V) was issued to frontline units without much training. The numbers allocated to different units were also dependent on the available vehicles. For example, the 563rd Heavy Anti-Tank Battalion received 31 vehicles in January 1945. It was probably the strongest single unit supplied with this vehicle. On the other hand, others were less lucky, receiving only 10 vehicles, such as the 510th Anti-Tank Battalion in February 1945.

After March 1945, the situation became even more chaotic. Any form of organization was discarded, and instead, vehicles were sent to various units as they arrived at the front. For example, in late March and early April 1945, the Panzer Lehr Division received 12, 114th Panzer Division 5, and the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division 21 vehicles. Even some assault gun brigades received Panzer IV/70(V)s during this period. These units finally received the vehicle that was initially designed for them way back in 1942.

The same month, out of desperation, the Germans tried to mobilize some 711 armored vehicles that were used for training. While this seems like a huge number, most of these vehicles were either obsolete older equipment or had been stored and not operational. At least two Panzer IV/70(V)s were used in this manner. One of them was likely the first prototype built.

In Combat

The Panzer IV/70(V)’s late production start meant that it took some time to actually deliver these vehicles to the frontlines. Crew training was also an important part, as it also required much-needed time. The German logistical infrastructure had been ravaged by Allied bombing runs. As the Allies liberated France, it was possible to build new air bases closer to Germany itself. Roads and railroads were under constant threat of enemy air attacks. This meant that vital supply transportation lines were often targeted. Transportation of new vehicles to the frontline became dangerous and, in many cases, they failed to reach their destinations.

Ardennes Offensive and the End of the War in Western Europe

The Panzer IV/70(V) began to reach frontline units in significant numbers only at the end of 1944 and the start of 1945. The first vehicles were concentrated for the German Ardennes offensive in late 1944. At that time, the Germans mustered some 210 vehicles of this type. An additional 90 were to be used as reinforcements and replacements. The precise numbers of Panzer IV/70(V)s used during the Ardennes offensive differ between sources. The previously mentioned number is according to T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Jagdpanzer IV), while K. Mucha and G. Parada (Jagdpanzer IV) give a much smaller number of 135 vehicles.

A well-recorded action where the Panzer IV/70(V) saw combat action was during the battles around the Belgian Krinkelt-Rocherath villages at the end of 1944. This was part of a German attack spearheaded by elements from the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. This Division’s 12th SS Panzerjäger Abteilung had Panzer IV/70(V)s in its inventory. The attack was also accompanied by infantry support from the SS Panzergreandier Regiment 25. It is worth mentioning that, by this point of the war, the German soldiers were mostly inexperienced and poorly trained.

As the Germans advanced, they threatened to surround two Allied infantry divisions. In order to prevent this, the 9th Infantry Regiment, together with various elements from the retreating Allied soldiers were gathered to form a defense line at the Krinkelt-Rocherath villages and the Lausdell crossroads. Interestingly, the commander of the 9th Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel William Dawes McKinley, favored the use of bazookas over towed 57 mm anti-tank guns. Both struggled to do damage to the front armor of some of the better German armored vehicles. Still, a team armed with bazookas could be effective, especially from concealed positions.

German infantry, supported by two Panzer IV/70(V) companies, attacked the Allied positions on 17th December 1944. The defenders did not have any armor support at this point, but they laid a huge number of mines. Several Panzer IV/70(V)s from the 2nd Company led the attack, supported by small Panzergrenadier infantry groups, some of them hiding on the Panzer IV/70(V)’s engine decks. The remaining infantry followed up from behind.

Illustrated map of the fighting that took place during the battle for Krinkelt-Rocherath (to the left) and Lausdell crossroads (to the right) Source: S. Zaloga Bazooka Vs. Panzers Battle for the Bulge

Once the German vehicles were spotted, they were immediately bombarded by American artillery. One vehicle was destroyed by an artillery hit, and two were immobilized by mines. Two more were destroyed by the Allied’s bazooka teams. Later that day, despite heavy losses and pressure from the Allies’ artillery, the Germans made another attack. They were supported by the fire of one immobilized Panzer IV/70(V). This vehicle would be destroyed with thermite grenades and a fuel canister. At least one more was destroyed in this attack.

At the same time as the attack on the Lausdell crossroads was carried out, the Germans also attacked the Allied’s positions at the Krinkelt-Rocherath villages. At least three Panzer IV/70(V)s led the attack and managed to penetrate into the villages. The M4 tanks sent against the Germans were quickly taken out. There was heavy fighting that lasted the whole day, but the Germans withdrew the next morning, expecting reinforcements and supplies. On the 18th, the Germans attacked again, this time advancing with Panther tanks in the direction of Rocherath. Two leading Panthers would be taken out, blocking the road to the village, forcing the remaining vehicles to try to go around them. Around one hour later, one Panzer IV/70(V) came to the place where the two Panthers were lost. This vehicle was quickly taken out by bazooka fire.

The precise losses suffered by both sides are not well documented. The defenders lost some 11 tanks, 2 M10 tank destroyers, and a large number of anti-tank guns. The Allies reported the destruction of over 40 German armored vehicles, including 5 Tigers. These reports were not correct, as no Tiger was used during this battle. In addition, the precise number of destroyed German vehicles was likely less than mentioned above, as many vehicles would be recovered.

Interestingly, the Allies used a captured Panzer IV/70(V) during the winter of 1944/45 to test the effectiveness of bazookas. While the front armor proved impervious, the sides and the rear were vulnerable to this weapon.

The two Panthers taken out near Rocherath, which blocked the entrance to the village. Just behind them is the destroyed Panzer IV/70. The two Allied soldiers are standing on it. Source: S. Zaloga Bazooka Vs. Panzers Battle for the Bulge
The captured Panzer IV/70(V) was used for testing the bazooka’s effectiveness against armor. The hits were marked with chalk numbers. Its thick and angled frontal armor proved to be immune to bazooka rockets. Source: S. Zaloga Bazooka Vs. Panzers Battle for the Bulge

At the end of December 1944, some Panzer IV/70(V)s participated in the last large German offensive in the West, Operation Northwind. The operation ended in another German failure by late January 1945, further depleting the strength of its armored units.

After the last offensive against the Western Allies, the German armored formations in this part of Europe were dangerously depleted. There were only six surviving anti-tank battalions equipped with Panzer IV/70 vehicles. By mid-March, the Germans had only 77 Panzer IV/70s vehicles on this front, with only 33 operational. This number likely included both the Vomag and Alkett versions.

An abandoned Panzer IV/70 vehicle was captured by the Allied Forces near Bremen in April 1945. Interestingly, this vehicle only has one steel roadwheel. Source W. J. Spielberger Military Vehicle Prints

Eastern Front

The Panzer IV/70(V) also saw heavy action on the Eastern Front. For example, on 16th March 1945, at the Oder River near Stettin, in north Poland, a platoon leader of the 6th Company from the 9th Panzer Regiment noted the following:

“ … About 900 hours, we learned that Ivan had positioned many tanks ready to attack in front of our infantry’s defensive positions. After signaling the Abteilung and Regiment by radio, we learned from an infantry messenger that the rest of our Kompanie and Abteilung must already be advancing. Their progress was delayed by the plowed up terrain caused by the heavy artillery barrage. At exactly 1100 hours, the artillery fire stopped. It was still deadly all around us. Then, from the deep holes and machinegun nests, signal flares were fired – Enemy attack! The first Russian T-34-85 and SU-85 rolled into the field of view of our Jagdpanzers which were in defiladed positions. Quickly, flashes appeared from hits on two of the forward T-34s, then they started were smoking. Thereafter, a further five to eight enemy tanks quickly appeared beside and behind these. They burnt just as fast. So it went for most of the other enemy tanks that continued to appear in advancing tank squadrons. Every shot from our gun was now a hit. Our knowledgeable and experienced gunners, who were the oldest corporals and sergeants in the Abteilung, could hardly miss their targets. After about a 30 minute fight, a strong formation of T-34s attempted to bypass the right flank of our position. We had fired almost all of our ammunition when behind and beside us additional guns opened fire. The rest of the Abteilung had arrived and supported our bitter defensive battle against the overwhelming Red tank formations.’’

Unfortunately, the report does not mention the precise Soviet armor losses, but these were possibly heavy. The report was meant to highlight the effectiveness and experience of the German gunners. This may somewhat be misleading, as the number of experienced German gunners and crews by the end of the war was greatly reduced due to attrition. The majority would be replaced with inexperienced and poorly trained crew members. Not surprisingly, their performance would be greatly diminished. In any case, the particular Panzer IV/70(V) mentioned in the report would be immobilized by a hit from a T-34-85 to the rear.
Another example would be the 563rd Heavy Anti-Tank Battalion, which saw extensive combat action against the advancing Soviet forces in early 1945. This unit was in the process of reorganization and was supplied with one Jagdpanther company and two Panzer IV/70(V) companies. The total combat strength was 18 Jagdpanther and 24 Panzer IV/70(V). The crew of these vehicles had been previously used as standard infantry and were quite exhausted from heavy fighting with the Soviets. As there was no time for recuperation, on 21st January 1945, they advanced toward the enemy. The unit reached Wormditt that day, where heavy fighting with the enemy occurred. Thanks to their superior firepower and experience, the German vehicles managed to inflict severe losses to the enemy. During a period of 10 days, some 58 enemy tanks were reported destroyed. The Germans only lost one Jagdpanther and four Panzer IV/70(V)s. The remaining vehicles had to be blown up to prevent being captured due to a lack of fuel or spare parts.

The IV SS-Panzer Corps, which engaged the Soviets in a desperate attempt to reach the besieged Budapest, had in its inventory some 55 Jagdpanzer IV and Panzer IV/70(V) tank destroyers. Some would also see service at the last major German armored offensive in the East at Lake Balaton during March 1945. By mid-March, the German Army on this front had some 357 vehicles in its inventory, of which 189 were operational.

Abandoned Panzer IV/70(V) somewhere in Hungary during early 1945. Source:
Panzer IV/70(V) from the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend retreating after the Battle of Lake Balaton during March 1945. Source: H. Meyer The 12th SS The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer Division: Volume Two
Some Panzer IV/70(V)s participated in the fighting around and in Budapest in early 1945. Source: И. Мощанский, И. Переяславцев Tank Destroyer Pz.IV/70V)


The Panzer IV/70(V) saw limited use in this part of Europe. Newly produced vehicles were rushed to either the Eastern or Western Fronts. The hilly terrain in Northern Italy would likely have led to overheating and transmission problems. Thus, by April 1945, only three such vehicles were present on this front.

Jagdpanzer IV Versions

Panzer IV/70(V) Befehlswagen

An unknown number of Panzer IV/70(V)s were modified to be used as Befehlswagen (Eng. command vehicles). These vehicles had additional radio equipment installed, namely the FuG 8 30 radio station (30 W power) with an operational range of 80 km. The extra equipment was positioned behind the loader and was to be operated by an extra crew member. The Befehlswagen would also use a Sternantenne (English: star radio antenna) which was 1.4 m long and located on the left side of the engine compartment.

Other Users

After the war, some surviving Panzer IV/70s would see service with a few different armies.


The Bulgarians, who were allied to the Germans, switched sides in late 1944. They joined the Soviet Union in the fight against Germany. In March 1945, the Bulgarian armored force was supplemented with one captured Panzer IV/70(V) (chassis number 320662) supplied by the Soviets. In Bulgarian service, this vehicle was known under the Maybach T-IV designation. This vehicle still exists to this day and can be seen at the National Museum of Military History in Sofia.

National Museum of Military History, Sofia, Bulgaria. Source:


An unknown numbers of captured Panzer IV/70(V)s were supplied to the Romanian Army by the Soviet Union (possibly after the war). In Romanian service, they were known under the TAs T-4 designation. The TAs was an abbreviation for Tun de Asalt (Eng. Assault Gun) and T-4 was the Romanian designation for the Panzer IV.

A Romanian Panzer IV/70(V) seen during a military parade held in May 1948. Source: Trupele Blindate din Armata Română 1919-1947


Around five to six vehicles (both L/48 and L/70 armed versions) were given to Syria in 1950 by the French, although, depending on the sources, it is possible that the Soviets actually supplied them. During combat with Israeli forces in 1967 during the Six-Day War, one Jagdpanzer IV was lost when it was hit by a tank round. The remaining were withdrawn from the front and probably stored in reserve. These Jagdpanzer IVs were still listed in the Syrian Army inventory during 1990-1991. What became of them is, unfortunately, not currently known.

Surviving Vehicles

At least several Panzer IV/70(V) vehicles are known to have survived the war. They can be seen in museums around the world. The National Armor and Cavalry Museum Fort Benning in the US has one vehicle. Another US vehicle can be seen at the Army Ordnance Museum, Aberdeen Proving Ground. One can be seen at the Bulgarian National Museum of Military History in the capital, Sofia. Another vehicle is located at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The well-known military museum at Kubinka also has one vehicle in its collection.

Surviving Panzer IV/70(V) at the National Armor and Cavalry Museum, Fort Benning, in the US. Source:
Another Panzer IV/70(V) located at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Source:
Panzer IV/70(V) at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. Source: Wikipedia
Another example can be seen at the Kubinka Museum near Moscow. Source: Wikipedia


The Panzer IV/70(V) was the final result of the German attempts to create a new and better-armed assault gun to replace the StuG III. Ironically, some Sturmartillarie units only received these vehicles near the end of the war. The Panzer IV/70(V) would remain primarily a dedicated anti-tank vehicle. It possessed strong armament, was well protected, and was a small target. On paper, it met nearly all the requirements that were often associated with an effective anti-tank vehicle for Second World War standards at least. But it was far from perfect, as the added weight led to the chassis being overburdened, which resulted in reduced maximum speed, reliability, and mobility issues.

Despite being produced in relatively large numbers (for German standards), not all of these ever reach the frontline units. The German logistic supply lines were all but destroyed by the end of 1944. The Panzer IV/70(V)s were not concentrated in numbers but instead given in smaller groups to fill the gaps created on the fronts. Thus, their effectiveness was greatly reduced. By late 1944, there was a general lack of panzers, so the Germans were forced to use the Jagdpanzers as replacement vehicles instead. The Panzer IV/70(V) suffered losses, as it was often used in the role of panzer, a role for which it was not suited nor designed for. But, as there were no other solutions, something was better than nothing.

In the end, the Panzer IV/70 (V) was a sound design that exploited the old Panzer IV chassis that was reaching the end of its development limits. Its effectiveness was hampered due to its late introduction in the war, when it could do little to change the final outcome.

Late-type Panzer IV/70(V) based on the Panzer IV Ausf.H, 13th Panzer Division, Hungary, January 1945.
Early type Panzer IV/70(V) in winter camouflage, Hungary, possibly January 1945.
Panzer IV/70(V), late version, 1st SS Panzer Division, Hungary, 1945.
Panzer IV/70(V), late version, 13th Panzer Division, Hungary, January 1945.
Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.5. x 3.17 x 1.85 m
Total weight, battle-ready 25.8 tonnes
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM, 265 hp @ 2,800 rpm
Speed 35 km/h 15-18 km/h (cross-country)
Operational range 210 km, 130 km (cross-country)
Traverse 12° right and 12° left
Elevation -6° to +15°
Armament 7.5 cm (2.95 in) PaK 42 L/70 (55-60 rounds)
7.9 mm (0.31 in) MG 42, 1200 rounds
Armor Front 80 mm, sides 40 mm, rear 30 mm and top 20 mm


T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2001) Panzer Tracts No.20-1 Paper Panzers
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2012) Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Jagdpanzer IV
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (1997) Panzer Tracts No.9 Jagdpanzer
D. Nešić (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
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T. J. Gander (2004), Tanks in Detail JgdPz IV, V, VI and Hetzer, Ian Allan Publishing
B. Perrett (1999) Sturmartillerie and Panzerjager 1939-1945, New Vanguard
S. J. Zaloga (2021) German tanks In Normandy, Osprey Publishing
K. Mucha and G. Parada (2001) Jagdpanzer IV, kagero
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S. J. Zaloga (2010) Operation Nordwind 1945, Osprey publishing
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P. C. Adams (2010) Snow and Steel The Battle of the Bulge 1944-45, Oxford University press
P. Thomas (2017), Hitler’s Tank Destroyers 1940-45. Pen and Sword Military.
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P. Paolo (2009) Panzer Divisions 1944-1945, Osprey Publishing
N. Szamveber (2013) Days of Battle Armoured Operations North Of The River Danube, Hungary 1944-45, Helion & Company
J. Ledwoch (2009) Bulgaria 1945-1955, Militaria.
J. Ledwoch. (2002) Panzer IV/70 (V), Militaria.
W. J. Spielberger (1972) Military Vehicle, Bellona Print Series 30
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H. Meyer (2005) The 12th SS The History of the Hitler Youth Panzer Division: Volume Two, Stockpile Book
И. Мощанский, И. Переяславцев (2002) Tank Destroyer Pz.IV/70(V)
S. Zaloga (2022) Tanks In The Battle OF Germany 1945, Osprey Publishing
B. Mihalyi (2022) Siege Of Budapest 1944-1945, Osprey Publishing

Has Own Video WW2 German SPAAGs

Flakpanzer IV (3.7 cm Flak 43) ‘Möbelwagen’ (Sd.Kfz.163/3)

German Reich (1944)
Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun (SPAAG) – 205-250 Built

As the Second World War progressed, it was becoming obvious to the German tank force that the Luftwaffe (English German Air Force) was slowly losing control of the skies over Europe. In order to protect themselves from enemy ground attack aircraft, a series of self-propelled anti-aircraft guns (SPAAG) based on tank chassis were proposed in 1942. None of these early designs would be adopted, given the severe capacity limitations of the German war industry. As a temporary solution, the Panzer IV chassis was chosen for this use, being initially armed with the 2 cm Flakvierling anti-aircraft gun. The whole concept was deemed worthwhile, but the armament was seen as too weak. In early 1944, a slightly improved model armed with the stronger 3.7 cm Flak 43 anti-aircraft gun would be adopted for service as the first of the Flakpanzer IVs.

The 3.7 cm Flak 43 armed Flakpanzer IV. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

A New Flakpanzer IV

The early German attempts to create an effective SPAAG based on a tank chassis were rather unsuccessful. The problem with these early proposals was that they were based on tank chassis that were yet to enter production, and none of these actually did so in any significant numbers, so these AA projects had to be quickly abandoned. By the later stages of the war, the overburdened German industry was simply unable to provide resources and production facilities for yet another new vehicle type.

One such early proposal was Rheinmetall’s Flakpanzer, which was based on the VK13.03 chassis with an anti-aircraft gun in a fully rotating turret. Besides a wooden mock-up, nothing came of this proposal. Source:

During May 1943, various German Army commissions, including those concerned with armaments and tanks, met to discuss a proper solution to the general lack of anti-aircraft protection for the panzer divisions. After a series of discussions, it was agreed that the best solution was to reuse the Panzer IV chassis for the new SPAAG. The contract for this project was officially awarded on 8th June 1943. In order to speed up the development and production process, the whole design was to be as simple as possible. As a temporary solution, the armament would consist of the 2 cm Flakvierling. This anti-aircraft gun and its crew were to be protected by four-hinged armored walls. The firm responsible for the realization of this project was Krupp. Once the prototype was completed, it was presented to a Luftwaffe delegation for inspection on 3rd October 1943. The delegation did not have any objections and the prototype was to be used for initial testing and evaluation. The overall results were promising and a monthly production run of 20 vehicles was to begin starting in April 1944.

The first Flakpanzer IV prototype was armed with the 2 cm Flakvierling. The gun and its crew were to be protected by four-hinged armored walls. Source:

This was not to be, as, on 21st December 1943, it was decided to instead rearm this vehicle with the more powerful 3.7 cm Flak 43 anti-aircraft gun. The Germans were becoming aware that their 2 cm anti-aircraft gun was slowly losing its effectiveness against enemy aircraft at heights greater than 1 km. While it had a much lower firing rate, the larger 3.7 cm round offered a much greater punch. On the 3rd of January 1944, a meeting was once again held between various army branches, including some prominent figures such as Heinz Guderian, General Von Renz (anti-aircraft branch), Hitler, and Albert Speer. Hitler himself agreed to the notion that the Panzer IV chassis should be used as a temporary solution and that the second version (armed with the 3.7 cm gun) should be adopted. A production order for 20 such vehicles was issued. These were to be completed in February 1944. After that, a monthly production rate of 20 vehicles was to be carried out. The initial order included 100 such vehicles. Deutsche Eisenwerke AG was responsible for the delivery of the guns. These were to be placed on the chassis completed by Krupp.

With this, the 3.7 cm armed Flakpanzer IV project received a green light. A prototype vehicle was quickly built. This was actually the same prototype, just rearmed with the larger gun. After a brief examination, some minor changes were requested. mostly in regard to the weapon mount and the redesign of its gun shield.

The 3.7 cm Flak 43 armed Flakpanzer IV. Source:

The first Flakpanzer IV, together with other anti-aircraft vehicles (not specified which ones in the sources), were transported near Oksbol in occupied Denmark for firing trials. The 3.7 cm Flak 43 worked without any problem. The main issue noticed was the extensive exhaust gasses and the long flame tongues that exited from the gun breech. Both of these were not related to the design of the gun, but to the lower quality of the gunpowder used at this stage of the war.

A Flakpanzer IV during firing trails. This was possibly the vehicle tested in Denmark. Notice the spare barrel and ammunition boxes. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The new vehicle received the quite simple designation Flkakpanzerkampfwagen IV (or simply Flakpanzer IV). In order to help distinguish it from other similar vehicles based on the Panzer IV chassis, the armament caliber and name are often added to its designation. The vehicle itself is possibly best known by the name given mockingly by the troops that operated it. They referred to it as the Möbelwagen (English: Furniture van).


While initial plans predicted that the first group of 20 vehicles would be built in February 1944, this did not happen. The actual production began in March 1944. The production went relatively smoothly, with the 20 vehicles per month quota being achieved and sometimes even surpassed. The production of this vehicle was to be terminated in October 1944. It was to be replaced by the Ostwind, which was expected to enter serial production in November 1944. As this did not occur, the production of the Flakpanzer IV continued up to April 1945, with some 240 vehicles being built in total by that point. The production number may have been slightly larger, as the documents from the Stahlindustrie (Eng. Metal Industry), which were recovered after the war, mention that 243 vehicles were completed.

Month 1944 1945
January / 5
February / 18
March 20 12
April 20 Unknown
May 15
June 34
July 31
August 30
September 24
October 14
November 10
December 7
In total 205 Around 35

While most sources agree that 240 such vehicles were produced, there are some that offer different production numbers. For example, author D. Nešić (Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka) gives a figure of 250 vehicles having been built. Author B. Perrett (Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936-1945) states a total of 211, while Walter J. Spielberger (Gepard The History of German Anti-Aircraft Tanks) only mentions 205 vehicles being built. The most likely correct production numbers are 240 vehicles, as mentioned by T. L. Jentz and H. L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No. 12-1 – Flakpanzerkampfwagen IV), given that they are supported by German documentation.

A group of three newly produced Flakpanzer IVs. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag


The new Flakpanzer IV shared most of its components (besides the obvious difference in the main armament) with its Flakvierling-armed predecessor on which it was based. Still, some modifications and improvements were introduced, either at the start of or during production. The Flakpanzer IV was built using Panzer IV Ausf.H and Panzer IV Ausf.J chassis.

Suspension and Running Gear

The Flakpanzer IV suspension and running gear were the same as those of the original Panzer IV, with no changes to the overall construction. They consisted of eight small doubled road wheels on each side, suspended in pairs by leaf-spring units. There were two front-drive sprockets, two rear idlers, and eight return rollers in total. Usually, the return rollers were rubber rimmed, but by 1944, shortages of this material meant that they had to be replaced with metal return rollers.

The Flakpanzer IV suspension was basically unchanged from the Panzer IV. Source:

Hull and the Engine Compartment

The original Panzer IV hull design did not receive any major change. The Flakpanzer IV utilized the Maybach HL 120 TRM engine but was slightly modified to give out 272 hp@2,800 rpm instead of the usual 265 hp@2,600 rpm.


The new Flakpanzer IV retained the large rectangular-shaped superstructure. In order to reduce production costs, the machine gun ball mount was replaced with a much simpler machine gun firing port. This port was protected by a round cone-shaped cap. It was like a plug, connected to a chain, and when in use, the armored cover would simply be pushed out by one of the crew members. The Panzer IV driver’s observation port remained unchanged. To the left of the driver vision port, a metal bar with a round hole inside it was welded to the front plate. Its purpose was to prevent the front folding wall from completely falling down and thus covering the driver’s view.

Front view of the Flakpanzer IV, where the simple design of the new superstructure is evident. Source:
A metal bin was added to the front to prevent the front folding wall from covering the driver field of view. The lone soldier to the right in this picture actually sits on it. Source Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

On top of this superstructure, a platform was added to provide the necessary room for the installation of the main armament and for the crew to work with it. In order to have access to their positions, the driver and the radio operator had two hatches, which were positioned at the front of the superstructure. In comparison to the predecessor, these were slightly enlarged.

In order to reduce the vehicle height as much as possible, the gun platform was actually lowered down inside the Panzer IV hull. Lastly, to the rear, close to the engine compartment, two additional hatches served as access points to the ammunition storage.

A close-up view of the upper platform. In order to reduce height, the gun mount was actually lowered inside the Panzer IV hull. The open entry point for the driver is visible here too. Source:
A good upper view of the Flakpanzer IV superstructure top. Unusually, the centrally positioned mount for the gun is missing. The two front open hatches serve as entry points for the driver and radio operator. To the rear, the other two hatches lead to ammunition storage bins. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Fighting Compartment

The 3.7 cm Flakpanzer IV which entered production inherited most components and the overall design from the previous prototype, with some changes. The position of the main armament remained in the center of the superstructure top. Around it, there was enough room for four (or more) crew members. Some minor changes were needed to provide the necessary installation of the larger armament.

The folding walls received a number of changes to their overall design. The first Flakpanzer IV prototype had higher side walls, which were angled inward. The angled plates served to provide an additional level of protection against aerial attacks. On the 3.7 cm Flakpanzer IV, the side armor plates’ height was reduced by about 25 cm. The first 45 produced vehicles retained this slightly curved side armor. After that point, they were replaced with simpler flat armor plates. They were easier to produce and, realistically, the angled armor offered no real extra level of protection. Another interesting feature of the Flakpanzer IV were the two (one on each side) small round-shaped firing ports. One additional port was placed on the rear wall.

The 2 cm Flakvierling auf Fahrgestell Panzer IV prototype used side folding walls that had larger inward-angled armor plates. Source: T. L.Jentz and H. L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No. 12-1 – Flakpanzerkampfwagen IV.
The production Flakpanzer IV, on the other hand, only initially used this design, which was greatly shortened, before being fully replaced with flat walls. Source:

Whilst driving, these walls were fully raised. In a combat situation, these would be slightly lowered to engage low-flying targets or fully lowered to provide a full-around firing arc. The front and rear plates also had two small hinged parts. These could be swung outwards and allowed for the side plates to be fixed at an outward angle. This was done to allow more space for the crew during an aerial engagement while still providing protection from ground fire. In order to reduce the deployment time, the rear armor wall could be completely lowered while the remaining three were partially raised.

Once combat was expected or the enemy was spotted, the crew would lower the armor wall to this position. The firing arc of the gun was increased this way. Source:
To achieve maximum firing angle on all sides, the walls had to be fully lowered down. This made the crew exposed to any kind of return fire. Source:
In case of need, the rear wall could be simply lowered down and not connected to the side walls. Source:
The majority of the produced Flakpanzer IVs had simpler flat side walls. Notice the small round-shaped firing port. Source:


In order to increase the destructive power and range of the SPAAG, the 2 cm Flakvierling 38 was replaced with a 3.7 cm Flak 43 anti-aircraft gun. Although sharing the same 3.7 cm caliber as the earlier Flak 18, 36, and 37 models, the newer Flak 43 (built by Rheinmetall-Borsig) was a completely different weapon. The primary goal of this design was to be simple to operate and easy to produce. It had a new gas-operated breech mechanism which was loaded with a fixed loading tray with eight-round clips. There was also a Flakzwilling 43 version with two guns mounted on the same carriage. In order to be installed in the new vehicle, some modifications were needed. The lower part of the carriage and the original gun shield were removed. In addition, the spent ammunition basket was smaller due to the smaller working space. Only the small rectangular shield in front of the gun was left in order to cover the front embrasure opening. The Flak 43 could rotate a full 360°, with a range of gun elevation between –10° to +90°. The maximum rate of fire was 250-300 rounds per minute, but 150-180 was the more practical rpm. With a muzzle velocity of 820 mps, the maximum effective ceiling was 4,800 m.

The 3.7 cm Flak 43 was an effective weapon built too late and in too small numbers to have any major impact on the war. Source:

The 3.7 cm Flak 43 was positioned on a specially designed round-shaped mount. While on this mount, it retained its 360° firing arc but the elevation was slightly reduced from –10° to –7°. With the original gun shield, the gun could not be fully rotated, even with the side wall lowered. To overcome this issue, parts of the gun shield were cut off. In order to further provide a better firing arc, the sides of this gun shield could be folded behind it. The ammunition load consisted of 400 rounds. This included 320 high-explosive and 80 armor-piercing rounds.

The first prototype armed with a 2 cm Flak gun had one major flaw. In order for the gun to fit inside the fighting compartment, parts of its gun shield had to be cut off. This meant that the gun was fixed and could not be moved until the side armor wall was partially or fully lowered. In theory, the engagement of ground targets could be done in an emergency by lowering the front wall. However, the gun would have no possibility to traverse and the driver had to move the whole vehicle to hit moving targets. The 3.7 cm armed Flakpanzer IV resolved this issue to some extent. The gun could be used to engage forward targets if only the front wall was partially or fully lowered. The firing angle would be limited when used in this role, and the crew would be exposed to return fire. Starting from around vehicle 201 (the precise vehicle is not clear), the central part of the front wall was cut off. This way, the gun could be used more effectively against ground targets. Given its late introduction, only a smaller number of vehicles would receive this modification.

The secondary armament consisted of two 7.92 mm MG 34 machine guns and at least one 9 mm MP submachine gun.

The 2 cm armed Flakpanzer prototype had its gun fixed in position whilst driving, and could not be moved. Targets could be engaged effectively only when all four armored walls were partially or fully lowered. Source:
The 3.7 cm armed Flakpanzer IV could engage targets with the front wall lowered with a limited firing arc. This would leave the crew exposed. Source:
On late production vehicles, the front wall was modified by cutting part of it. This way, the gun could be used to engage ground targets without exposing the crew. This was generally a rare modification that saw limited service in the last year of the war. Source:
A rear view of the main gun position. The wire mesh box, on the right side of the gun, served to catch spent ammunition cartridges. Source:

There is an old photograph that shows a Flakpanzer IV being armed with what appears to be a 3.7 cm Flak 18. The photograph itself is not clear enough to help identify the gun itself. The Flak 18 was the first German 3.7 cm anti-aircraft gun to be introduced to service in 1935. Its production and service were limited due to it being an overly complicated design. Why would the Germans use this obsolete weapon for the Flakpanzer IV is unclear. It was possible that this was used as a training vehicle, or the crew replaced the original gun with what they had on hand. At this stage in the war, the Germans were using all available resources to fight back against the Allies. The usage of two-part armored walls indicated that this was an early-produced vehicle.

The unusual Flakpanzer IV is armed with what appears to be an older 3.7 cm Flak 18. The use of this obsolete weapon indicates that this vehicle was intended to be used for crew training. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Another view of the same vehicle. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Armor Protection

The Flakpanzer IV’s frontal armor hull protection was 80 mm thick. The sides were 30 mm and the rear was only 20 mm thick. The superstructure frontal armor was 50 mm thick and its remaining sides were 30 mm thick.

The armor thickness of the four sidewalls was changed three times. The first group of 20 vehicles had sidewall armor that consisted of two spaced (55 mm apart) 12 mm thick plates. The next 25 vehicles still had the space armor, but the thickness was reduced to 10 mm. The idea behind using two-spaced armor plates was that the first would absorb most of the impact and the second plate would stop the round completely. Of course, due to the low armor thickness of these two plates, it could only effectively work against small-caliber bullets and shrapnel. Anti-tank weapons could easily pierce this armor. Another downside was that it greatly complicated the overall production, as more time was needed to build these. What is unclear in the sources is if all four walls consisted of two-piece armor plates. The photographs of this vehicle obviously show that the rear and front folding walls (on the vehicles that were produced with them) were made of spaced armor plates. The side walls, on the other hand, appear to be thinner and possibly not using the spaced armor design.

The front armored wall on this early vehicle obviously was made of two armored plates with a space between them. The side walls are different and appear to be much thinner. Unfortunately, the sources are unclear on this. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

After these 45 vehicles were built, someone on the German side realized that using space armor generally offered no major improvement. So its use was discarded and replaced with four single-piece 25 mm thick armor plates. In addition, the upper angled armor on the side wall was also removed from production. The sides were thoroughly flat.

In some sources, there is disagreement about the thickness of the armor side walls. To some extent, this is quite understandable if we take into account the marginal difference between the first 12 mm plates and the later 10 mm. The previous information comes from authors such as T. L.Jentz and H. L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No. 12-1 – Flakpanzerkampfwagen IV). Author Walter J. Spielberger (Gepard: The History of German Anti-Aircraft Tanks) mentions that the later vehicles used 20 mm thick armor plates and not 25 mm.

Regardless of the thickness of the four sidewalls, they were simply too weak to offer any level of protection except against low-caliber rounds and shrapnel. Source:


The crew of the 3.7 cm Flakpanzer IV consisted of six, namely the commander, two gunners, a radio operator, the loader, and the driver. The radio operator and the driver were positioned inside the hull and were fully protected. The remaining crewmembers were positioned inside the fighting compartment. The gun was operated by two gunners positioned on the right side. Opposite the gunners was the loader. Behind them sat the commander. Besides his main role of commanding the whole vehicle, he also acted as an extra spotter and helped to identify targets.

The gun was operated by two gunners, with the loader placed opposite them. Behind them, two more crew members helped with ammunition delivery or spotting enemy targets Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag

Some authors, such as Walter J. Spielberger, mention that the number of the crewmembers varied between 6 to 7. This is not surprising, as this was the case with some other German combat vehicles which sometimes had more crewmembers than were officially assigned. The reasons for this may vary depending on the need or the combat situation of the unit itself. Some units may have noted that having an extra loader or spotter could help with the vehicle in combat. It could also be possible that some unit lost some vehicles and redistributed the surviving crewmembers between surviving vehicles.

Unit Distribution

As the first vehicles were completed, they were allocated for the training of the initial groups of crews. These would then be used to equip and form 8-vehicle strong Panzer Flak Zuge (English: Tank anti-aircraft platoons).

During June and July 1944, the first such units were attached to the 9th, 11th, and 116th Panzer Divisions which served on the Western Front and 6th and 19th on the Eastern Front. In the following two months, reduced strength units (with only four vehicles) were issued to 10 different Panzer Brigades serving on both fronts. After that, mixed units were formed, equipped with four Flakpanzer IVs and four Wirbelwinds (2 cm Flakvierling armed Panzer IV). It is important to note that these were theoretical strengths as, due to production limitations or logistical reasons, not all 8 vehicles would be always issued. Despite their rather small production number, slightly less than 30 anti-aircraft platoons would be formed during the war.

In Combat

Despite a large number of surviving photographs of the Flakpanzer IV being used in combat, the sources frustratingly rarely mention this vehicle’s operational service in more detail. To some extent, this is not surprising given their late introduction and low production numbers.

On 2nd October 1944, US P-47s from the 389th Fighter Squadron commanded by Lt William Grounds undertook a reconnaissance mission over Vortum Mullem in the Netherlands. They were meant to support the advance of the 7th Armored Divisions against the positions held by the 107th Panzer Brigade. This unit had the 3.7 cm Flakpanzer IV in its inventory. During an aerial attack run led by Lt William Grounds, his aircraft would be hit by a 3.7 cm round. The hit was fatal, as it destroyed the control cables located near the aircraft’s tail.

A P-47 was brought down by Flakpanzer fire. The extensive damage received from the 3.7 cm round is evident here. The US soldier to the right (next to the star marking) has placed his leg inside the hole made by the 3.7 cm round. Source: J. Bernstein P-47 Vs German Flak Defenders

In December 1944, Flakpanzer IVs participated in the last large German offensive in the West, known as Operation Northwind. Panzer Abteilung 5 (5th Tank Battalion) had in its inventory six Panthers, five Jagdpanzer IVs, and 3 Flakpanzer IVs. Given the rather poor weather conditions, it is unlikely that they saw much use against enemy aerial targets during this offensive.
The Flakpanzer IV also saw action in the East. For example, the 20th Panzer Division, which saw heavy action in Hungary in early 1945, had 4 Flakpanzer IVs in its inventory. Some were even used in defense of Budapest before being lost.

A destroyed Flakpanzer IV being recovered by a Bergepanther. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
A Flakpanzer IV with quite an interesting camouflage pattern. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
An abandoned or destroyed Flakpanzer IV in Budapest, 1945. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
An abandoned Flakpanzer IV being inspected by Allied soldiers on 21st September 1944. This vehicle was left by the retreating Germans in the Vosges Mountains. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
A Flakpanzer IV providing anti-aircraft protection for advancing Panthers. Source: Digital Collection of Armin Freitag
Despite being intended for the anti-aircraft role, its crews tried to prevent Allied aircraft from spotting them first. A well-selected position and camouflaged vehicle had the potential to do more damage than hunting for targets in the open field. Allied ground attack aircraft would often try to first neutralize any anti-aircraft positions before attaching other targets. Source:

Surviving Vehicles

Given the rather small production run, it is no surprise that only a few 3.7 cm Flakpanzer IVs have survived to this day. One can be seen at the French Musée des Blindés at Saumur. The second vehicle, which was initially stored at the Aberdeen US Army Ordnance Museum, was given back to Germany in 1970. It can now be seen at the Auto-Technik Museum in Sinsheim. The original 3.7 cm gun is currently not on display. Instead, a 4 cm Bofors gun has been placed on top.

The surviving Flakpanzer IV at the Musée des Blindés at Saumur. Source:
The Flakpanzer IV at the Auto-Technik Museum in Sinsheim exhibitted with the 4 cm gun. Source: Wiki


The first Flakpanzer IV that entered production was a mixed bag. On one hand, it finally provided the panzer units with a vehicle that was protected (in contrast to the half-tracks, on which only the cabin was protected in the best case scenario) and had the firepower to bring down most late-war enemy aerial targets. On the other hand, its overall design was somewhat crude and ineffective. The folding walls were used intentionally in order to provide the crew with a good enough view of the surroundings to spot aerial targets before they could be engaged and with enough space to operate the gun. In theory, this would provide sufficient time to set up the 3.7 cm Flakpanzer IV and prepare for combat. The German tank branch of the army was far from satisfied with this vehicle but, given that nothing else was available, they could do little but to accept it for service.

Flakpanzer IV 3.7 cm (Sd.Kfz.163/3) ‘Möbelwagen’. Illustrations by the illustrious Godzilla funded by our Patreon Campaign, based on the work of David Bocquelet.

Flakpanzer IV Technical Specifications

Crew 5-6 (Commander, two gunners, loader, radio operator, and driver)
Weight 25 tonnes
Dimensions Length 5.92, Width 2.95, Height 3.25 m
Engine Maybach HL 120 TR(M) 265 hp @ 2,600 rpm
Speed 42 km/h, 25 km/h (cross-country)
Range 210 km, 130 km (cross-country)
Primary Armament 3.7 cm Flak 43
Secondary Armament Two 7.92 mm MG 34
Elevation -10° to +100°
Wall armor 2×12 mm / 2x 10 mm or 25 mm
Superstructure armor front 50 mm, sides 30 mm, rear 30, and top 8-10 mm
Hull armor front 50 or 80 mm, sides 20-30 mm, rear 14.5-20 mm, and the top and bottom 10-11 mm


K. Hjermstad (2000), Panzer IV Squadron/Signal Publication.
Engelmann-Scheibert, H. A. Koch, O. W. v. (1978) Renz Flak Auf Dem Gefechtsfeld Podzun-Palla-Verlag
D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
Walter J. Spielberger (1982). Gepard The History of German Anti-Aircraft tanks, Bernard & Graefe
Ian V. Hogg (1975) German Artillery of World War Two, Purnell Book Services Ltd.
T. L.Jentz and H. L. Doyle (1998) Panzer Tracts No.12 Flak selbstfahrlafetten and Flakpanzer
T. L.Jentz and H. L. Doyle (2010) Panzer Tracts No. 12-1 – Flakpanzerkampfwagen IV and other Flakpanzer projects development and production from 1942 to 1945.
T. L.Jentz and H. L. Doyle (2002) Panzer Tracts No. 20-2 Paper Panzers
Walter J. Spielberger (1993) Panzer IV and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
D. Doyle (2005) German military Vehicles, Krause Publications
J. Bernstein (2021) P-47 Vs German Flak Defenders, Osprey publishing
S. J. Zaloga (2010) Operation Nordwind 1945, Osprey publishing
B. Perrett (2007) Panzerkampfwagen IV Medium Tank 1936-1945, New Vanguard

Cold War Yugoslavia Film Props Film Prop Tanks Has Own Video

‘Tiger’ Film Props in Bitka na Neretvi

Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1960s)
Movie Prop Tank – 3 To 4 Tanks Modified For The Role

Movies that represented the fight against the Axis powers during the Second World War were very popular in the communist parts of Europe, such as Yugoslavia. The Germans, not surprisingly, were always portrayed as the bad guys, who brought death, oppression, and destruction with them. They were presented as having vast manpower and armament superiority. Opposite them were the people, fighting with courage and determination in the hope of liberation and, of course, for the party. Many battles were recreated, reinterpreted, filmed, and turned into movies. For this, producers needed all kinds of supporting props, such as weapons, uniforms, and other equipment. However, for the best possible visual effects, they needed actual tanks. On that matter, they did not need anything else, but the mighty Tiger. Of course, the Yugoslavs never had such a vehicle. Instead, they disguised a few T-34-85s for this purpose, and these were successful mock-ups for the period.

A T-34-85 modified to imitate a Tiger tank. Source:

Yugoslav “Tigers”

After the war, the newly created Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija SFRJ (English: Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) was heavily influenced by the heritage of the Communist resistance movement in many areas. This was present in almost all spheres of public life, from monuments dedicated to fallen fighters, which were common sights in towns or small villages, or other important events in both literature and art. This was probably best represented in the TV series and movies filmed up to the start of the 1990s. These often portrayed tales of smaller groups of Partisans or the much larger battles that occurred during the war. The most prominent movies of that time were Užička Republika (English: Republic of Užice), Sutjetka (English: Battle of Sutjeska), Valter Brani Sarajevo (English: Walter Defends Sarajevo), and the Bitka na Neretvi (English: Battle of Neretva), to name a few.

When it comes to films with a historical theme, of course, it is necessary to use props that are reminiscent of the period depicted. This was not too big of a problem for Yugoslav cinematography. Although fighting in Yugoslavia may not have been as intense in terms of the number of soldiers and equipment as on other fronts in Europe, great battles were fought nevertheless. This was especially the case between 1944 and 1945, when fairly large engagements took place. During these, the Yugoslav Partisans managed to capture huge stockpiles of enemy weapons and vehicles of all kinds, including tanks. Many of these weapons would serve as a foundation for the creation of the new Jugoslovenske Narodne Armije JNA (English: Yugoslav People’s Army). Iconic German weapons, such as MP 40 submachine guns, MG 34 and 42 machine guns, Mauser 98K rifles, and others were captured in sufficient quantities to be issued for army use until replaced with more modern designs. Thus, during the filming of larger and more important movies, the JNA was often called to provide the necessary equipment and men. Partisan uniforms were also easy to come by, as they had often used various military outfits or simple civilian clothes during the war.

Tanks and other armored vehicles which were captured during the war saw limited use in the early years of the JNA. The Germans and their allies had used various types of vehicles in their attempt to suppress the Yugoslav resistance movements. These mostly included older or captured vehicles, as the Germans could not afford to send more modern designs. There were some modern vehicles, such as the StuG III, Panzer IV, and the Soviet T-34s in the area, but these were issued in limited quantities. Not surprisingly, many of them quickly fell into disrepair after the war given their age and lack of spare parts, So, by the time the Partisan-themed movies were filmed, none of these could be reused. Even if some were still in running condition, it is unlikely that they would be used. The JNA did have in its inventory vehicles that were used by the Allies, which were present in large numbers and in a more workable condition, such as the T-34-85 and Sherman tanks, both of which saw use in this manner.

After the war, the JNA operated a vast collection of different types of armored vehicles of various origins, such as the StuG III. A major issue quickly arose when maintenance and acquisition of spare parts became impossible. These would be rather quickly replaced with more modern designs available in sufficient numbers. Source: www.srpskioklop.paluba.inf

In Yugoslav cinematography, Bitka na Neretvi was the most expensive movie ever made. It was filmed in 1969 and directed by Veljko Bulajić. It was famous for starring foreign actors, such as Yul Brynner, Orson Welles, and Franco Nero. Another interesting fact was that Pablo Picasso did the movie poster intended for the world premiere. This movie initially had a huge budget of over US$4.5 million and was supported by over 10,000 JNA “volunteers”. It was shown in cinemas around the world and was even nominated for the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film. This movie follows the plot of a series of events in Bosnia during 1943, as the Axis forces tried to isolate and destroy a large contingent of Partisans forces. Not surprisingly, the Axis forces were clearly presented as possessing superior weaponry, including tanks and aircraft. The Partisans, on the other hand, had to fight with courage and faith in the Communist Party, with some help from captured weapons. Of course, the movie itself does not depict the war as it was in reality. This can be seen in the scenes where the Germans simply stumble and fall like flies under Partisan fire, Partisans who are mowed down by enemy fire take a few minutes to die, and in other scenes where the Communist struggle for liberation is magnified. But, despite this, the movie itself is a treasure for all historical enthusiasts of this period. Many original hand-held weapons and guns can be seen in it.

An interesting fact was that Pablo Picasso did the movie poster intended for the world premiere. Source:
The Italian actor Franco Nero in front of a German 5 cm PaK 38 guns in the movie Bitka na Neretvi. Source:

When depicting enemy tank formations, JNA tanks and other vehicles were reused. In Bitka na Neretvi, over a dozen or so tanks were used. These were mostly T-34-85s with some minor cosmetic changes, such as adding German markings. Some vehicles were modified more extensively to resemble the German Tiger tanks. Of course, it has to be taken into account that, when these films were shot, the availability of quality literature that dealt with the topic of armored vehicles was generally rare, at least in Yugoslavia. Thus, to some extent, it can be understood that using improvised tanks to represent German designs was completely irrelevant to an audience of that time. This is likely the case even today, as most audiences would not see it as a major issue, while tank enthusiasts might ‘scream internally’. In the movie, some imitations of other armored vehicles were also present, including Italian light tanks.

During the first year of occupation, the Germans operated the aging Renault FTs. These would be soon replaced with other French-captured tanks. Even if later tanks were used during filming, these would never be as visually imposing as the much larger T-34-85 tanks. Source: Bojan B. D. and D. S avić Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu 1941-1945
Yugoslav T-34-85 disguised as a Tiger tank in the movie Bitka na Neretvi. Source:
A Soviet-tracked tractor was also modified to resemble an Italian CV-38 light tank. Source:

A Brief History of T-34 Tanks in Yugoslavia

In order to fight the ever-increasing Yugoslav resistance, the Germans operated a number of mostly obsolete and captured foreign tanks. During the summer of 1944, the SS Polizei Regiment 10 (English: 10th SS Police Regiment) was transferred from Ukraine to Trieste in Northern Italy. Once there, it was tasked with defending the vital transport lines against the Partisans. In its inventory, this unit had around 10 T-34-76 tanks of various types. They would see action in the last days of the war against the Partisans, when all T-34 tanks were either destroyed or captured.

While not clear, at least 5 or 6 T-34-76s were captured by the Partisans and put to use. Source:www.srpskioklop.paluba

The improved T-34 armed with an 85 mm gun placed in an enlarged turret would also see service in this theater of war. These were initially used by the Soviet 3rd Ukrainian Front, which supported the Yugoslav Communist Partisan’s attempts to liberate Serbia from the Axis forces in the autumn of 1944. This Soviet drive was supported by some 50 T-34-76 and 110 T-34-85 tanks. After successfully defeating the Germans in Serbia, the Soviets moved north, toward Hungary.

A Soviet T-34-85 during the liberation of Belgrade. Source: www.srpskioklop.paluba

This was not the only support that the Soviets provided to the Yugoslav Partisans. On Stalin’s own orders, a unit, later named Second Tank Brigade, was to be formed. It was meant to be equipped with 65 T-34/85 tanks which were manned by Communist Partisan soldiers. After successful training in the Soviet Union, the whole unit was transported to Yugoslavia in late March 1945. Despite its late arrival, the unit saw action against the remaining Axis forces in occupied Croatia and Slovenia.
After the war, the surviving T-34 tanks would be used as the main fighting force of the newly created JNA. In later years, the JNA would acquire over 1,000 such tanks, which, despite their age, represented a huge part of its armored force. Given their sheer numbers, the JNA never managed to fully replace them with something better. The T-34-85 would see extensive action during the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. Following the conclusion of these wars, all surviving T-34-85 were removed from service and mostly scrapped.

Two T-34-85s in Trieste at the end of the war. While not used during the final fighting for the city, they would be used for political pressure placed on the Allies to hand over the city to Yugoslavia. Source: www.srpskioklop.paluba
A post-war T-34-85 in JNA service. Source:www.srpskioklop.paluba

The Yugoslav Tigers

Generally speaking, finding original World War Two weapons was not a problem. The JNA had in its inventory all kinds of stockpiles of captured weapons. Various and sometimes rare German tanks and other armored vehicles were put to use by the JNA after the war. Of course, the Tiger was never used in this part of Europe. Such rare beasts would have never been effective in hunting small Partisan units in hilly terrain. Their job was to spearhead German assaults and decimate enemy armored forces. Using it in any other role was simply a waste of the resources invested in this tank. Given its general effectiveness, it became one of the most iconic tanks in history.

A Panzer 35(t) and an extremely rare Panzer I Ausf. F. Both vehicles survived the war and can be seen at the Kalemegdan Military Museum. Source: B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945

As the JNA did not have such tanks, the easiest way was to recreate them using what they had at hand. The producers of the Bitka na Neretvi movie went for imposing visual effects more than any historical accuracy. Using such a known tank as the Tiger in a movie where it can be seen destroyed by a much-weaker opponent could be seen as a symbolic act of bravery and the inevitable demise of the German force. The best-suited tank that could be reused for this purpose was the T-34-85. It was available in huge numbers and, with some improvisation and modifications, it was the closest thing that could resemble a Tiger tank. The T-34-85 already had a movie career in Yugoslavia, often being portrayed as a German tank in many old Partisan movies. They were often used without any cosmetic changes, simply adding German markings. In rarer cases, some minor changes were made by adding some modifications to the turrets or hulls.

A Yugoslav T-34-85 with a slightly modified turret that acted as a German tank from the movie Battle for Neretva, filmed in 1969. Source:

Yugoslav film workers who worked on visual effects, possibly assisted by some elements from the JNA, managed to build a decent Tiger replica. It was not just merely adding some cosmetic changes, as they actually put some extensive effort into making it resemble a Tiger tank.

Overall construction

Sadly, precise information on how these vehicles were assembled are hard to come by. It is likely that nobody at that time gave any thought to writing articles or even mentioning them in books or any other publication. The whole extended frames that were placed around the turret and the superstructure were possibly made of wood or metal plates. In any case, what is certain is that the overall construction had to be robust enough to withstand stress and vibrations caused by the vehicle moving. It certainly would not be visually appealing if, during the filming, some parts fell off.


The T-34-85 and the Tiger used quite different suspension designs. The Tiger tank used torsion bar suspension with eight large overlapping wheels. While offering excellent drive performance, it was difficult to maintain and repair, labor-intensive, and expensive to build. The T-34-85, on the other hand, used a Christie coil spring suspension. It was mechanically more robust but required a lot of space inside the hull sides. In contrast to the Tiger, the Soviet tank only had five road wheels.
Visually, from a distance, these two shared some similarities, at least to someone who is not familiar with either the history or the design of these vehicles. Both used large road wheels, without return rollers. Given their similarity, it was logical to reuse the T-34-85 for this purpose. Other tanks in JNA inventory, such as the Shermans or the M47, used a suspension that was obviously quite different in every aspect.

The T-34-85 used a five-road wheel suspension with a front idler and rear drive sprocket. Source: Picture taken from the Bitka na Neretvi movie
The Tiger suspension consisted of eight road wheels. Unlike the Soviet vehicle, the driver sprocket on the Tiger was located to the front. While obviously not the same, they share some visual resemblance to each other, at least from distance. Source: Wiki
A good view of the complex interleaved wheels used on the Tiger. This perfectly shows the complexity of its suspension. The Germans were the only ones to use such a design in large numbers. Armies around the world that produced tanks after the war mainly used the much simpler torsion bar suspension but without overlapping wheels. Source: Wiki


Another quite recognizable detail of the German Tiger was its simple box-shaped superstructure that covered the upper part of the vehicle. The driver vision port and the machine gun ball mount were placed on the front armor plate. Above them, two round-shaped hatches served as the entry points to the hull-positioned crew members. The Tiger hull was fairly large, being 8.45 m long and 3.23 m wide.

A quite recognizable feature of a Tiger tank was its simple square-shaped superstructure. Source: Wiki

In contrast, the T-34-85’s superstructure design was quite different, incorporating highly angled armor plates. Similarly to the German vehicle, this tank had a forward-mounted machine gun ball mount and a driver vision port which acted as an entry hatch. Unlike the Tiger, however, the T-34-85 was not provided with an upper hatch for the hull-positioned crew members. It was also slightly smaller in dimensions, 6.68 m long and 3 m wide.

In contrast to the Tiger, the T-34-85 used highly angled armor plates. This provided an extra level of protection, as incoming rounds could bounce off the sloped armor plates. Source: www.srpskioklop.paluba

The people responsible for the creation of these vehicles had to make a number of changes to adapt the T-34-85 in order to resemble the Tiger as closely as possible. They did not have to change the overall dimensions of the vehicle, as obviously, no one was going to use a measuring tape to actually measure. Luckily for them, the Tiger superstructure’s simplicity offered a quite straightforward solution, which essentially was the installation of a box-shape frame around the T-34-85’s body. While not perfect, and to some extent disproportionate, it provided a relatively good resemblance to the Tiger. As the final touch, a driver vision port and a machine gun ball-mount replica were added, but these were obviously not precise copies of the real ones. Lastly, in order to not interfere with the engine ventilation ports, the upper parts of the engine compartment were left open.

The box-shaped housing was placed on the T-34-85 tanks and offered a great resemblance to a Tiger, at least from a distance. The driver’s vision port could not be copied, as this part was likely difficult to adapt to be fully functional and not obstruct the driver’s field of vision. Source:
A close-up view of the Tiger’s front armored plates, which obviously shows the difference in shape and design. Source: Wiki


Once again, the turret was another major difference between these two vehicles. Luckily for the Yugoslavs, the Tiger’s turret also had a simple design that made it relatively easy to replicate. The turret’s construction concept was basically the same as with the tank’s superstructure. The T-34-85’s turret was encased with a frame that imitated a Tiger’s turret. While not an exact copy, it was quite similar to the original. The Yugoslav Tiger did have a commander’s cupola, but its quality was rather poor. Another small detail added to the turret was the rear-positioned imitation of the storage boxes.

A front view of the prop Tiger turret. The main visual difference was that the front parts of the Tiger turret moved with the gun itself. On the Yugoslav Tigers, only part around the barrel moved up or down, the rest of the frontal turret stayed in place, regardless of the gun’s position. Source: Still from Bitka na Neretvi
Side view of possibly the same vehicle. The people who were in charge of implementing this modification did a relatively good job. Source: Still from Bitka na Neretvi

The last part that needed to be adapted was the main gun itself. Both the Tiger and the T-34-85 used similar caliber guns, with the first being 88 mm and the latter 85 mm. The Tiger’s gun was much more complex in design, as it consisted of a large mantlet, a two-part barrel, and a muzzle brake. In contrast, the 85 mm gun used a smaller gun mantlet and a single-piece barrel without a muzzle brake. These prop tanks were never going to use actual live ammunition besides simple blanks. Therefore, a mock-up mask could be placed above the original guns without fear of potentially damaging them.

The upper picture shows the mighty 88 mm gun which was the main armament of a Tiger. It had a different shape to that of a T-34-85’s gun. Thanks to the simplicity and similar dimensions, the 85 mm gun was easy to adapt to the new role. The only thing that was needed was a wooden or metal replica of the 88 to be placed around it. Source: and
A ‘Tiger’ operated in another Partisan-related movie, the Sutjetska. From this distance, all the modifications, even the gun barrel, make for a quite well-done replica. Source:

How Many Were Converted?

How many tanks were modified for this proposal is not clear. Given a large amount of available resources, there was no major reason to not convert at least a few of them. The T-34-85s were taken from the 329th Armored Brigade. According to author B. B. Dimitrijević (Modernizacija i Intervencija Jugoslovenske Oklopne Jedinice 1945-2006), four tanks were adapted for use in Bitka na Neretvi. This author does not go into detail if these four are ones that were used as modified Tigers, but this seems very likely. In the movies, at least three Tigers can often be seen engaging the Partisans. That does not necessarily mean that only three were converted. Additional tanks may have been stored as available replacements if something went wrong with other vehicles.

At least three T-34-85s were converted for this purpose. Given the historical and political significance of these major movies, the JNA had to provide the necessary manpower and material. Source:,_The

In the Movies

The purpose of Bitka na Neretvi was not necessarily historical accuracy. The plot of this movie is more focused on the emotions and strength of the Partisan fighters. It depicts their struggle, where despite all circumstances, the Partisans fight on. To some, this may appear as a Communist propaganda tool, in which their struggle and success were greatly exaggerated, which was certainly true. However, it must not be forgotten that the Yugoslav Partisan fighters suffered a lot of hardship in their fight against a militarily superior enemy, who was often brutal and without mercy. It would take years of heavy fighting and sacrifice to finally see the enemy defeated and liberate their homeland. Such movies, with this kind of storytelling which is common across many war movies from all countries, are maybe not for everyone, but at least they serve as a tribute to honor the service and sacrifices made during the war.

Of course, considering the main purpose of this kind of movie, tactics and proper use of armored vehicles were completely unimportant. They served simply to imply the enemy’s superiority in every aspect, which makes the Partisan victory and struggles even greater. The Germans never used such modern vehicles (by World War Two standards) in Yugoslavia in any noticeable numbers, let alone in huge concentrations. The tanks that saw service were much smaller and less imposing. But still, to a poorly trained Partisan, even these may have appeared as invincible weapons.

Thus, the fake Tigers and ordinary T-34-85s could be seen in huge columns supported by the German infantry. During action scenes, they usually simply rushed forward, blowing up houses and other structures before being taken out by the Partisans. They are portrayed doing so in various ways, including using captured anti-tank guns, such as the 5 cm PaK 38 and the larger 7.5 cm PaK 40. Both of these guns were used in Yugoslavia by the Germans, but were generally rare sights. They were more commonly used in action close to the end of the war, way beyond 1943, when the events of this movie took place. The 7.5 cm gun had sufficient firepower to destroy a Tiger, but the smaller PaK 38 would have had major trouble doing anything against the Tiger’s heavy armor. Molotov cocktails were another famous tool used in these Partisan themed movies. They could be effective, but getting close to an enemy tank was not an easy task and success was not always guaranteed. In any case, in these movies, after the enemy attacked, they would usually be beaten back, with the tank slowly going forward in a somewhat chaotic manner.
These Tigers would be again used in another major Partisan movie, the Sutjetska, filmed in 1973. The plot is similar to the Bitka na Neretvi, where the Partisans try to escape a massive Axis envelopment. In this movie, the fake Tigers appear to be further improved to resemble a Tiger in more detail, such as adding a new command cupola, pistol ports, smoke dischargers, and other equipment. Once more, Orson Wells was involved in the film, this time as one of the writers. Renowned Welsh actor Richard Burton stars in the lead role of Josip Broz Tito.

The three Tigers used in the Sutjetska movie appear to have received major cosmetic improvements in many aspects. Source Still from Sutjetska

These three Tigers could be seen at the end of the movie advancing toward the Partisan’s positions. They would be ambushed by a Czechoslovak 3,7 cm KPÚV vz. 34 or 37 anti-tank gun operated by two Partisan fighters. This gun was another weapon used during the Second World War in Yugoslavia, so it is another small historical touch. At close range, the Tigers were taken out one by one, with each being destroyed by a single round. While this surely leaves a great visual impact on the viewer, in reality, this anti-tank gun would have been useless against the 100 mm thick frontal armor of the Tiger tank and would have struggled even against the 60-80 mm thick sides, even at point blank range.

While surely visually effective, the small 37 mm anti-tank gun would have been useless against a Tiger tank. Single rounds were also unlikely to succeed in defeating an enemy tank in real life, as at least several such small caliber rounds would probably be needed to do the job. Source Still from Sutjetska

International Career

Although perhaps less well known in the world today, during the 1960s, Yugoslav cinema entered its golden age. Thanks to the participation in several different foreign film productions, a series of well-known movies were filmed in Yugoslavia or had Yugoslav actors in them. For example, Winnetou and the Crossbreed, a 1966 Western was filmed in Yugoslavia. War-related movies were also filmed, probably the best known being Kelly’s Heroes (1970) starring Clint Eastwood. The movie’s plot revolves around the Allied liberation of France in 1944. The main protagonist is an American soldier named Kelly, who comes across information about German gold held in a bank behind enemy lines. He gathers a group of soldiers and a few Sherman tanks in an attempt to ‘liberate’ the gold for themselves. They finally manage to locate the bank where the gold is stored but find out that it was guarded by three German Tiger tanks. These tanks were likely the same ones used during the filming of the Yugoslav movies. Of course, given that this was a cooperation between the American and Yugoslavian film industries, the visual effects were much improved, and these are best seen on the tank themselves. The quality of the detail added to the tanks is extraordinary and resembles a real Tiger quite well. In the movie itself, the overall combat action is more realistic, to some extent. The downside is that they still portrayed some myths, such as that the Tiger armor was weakest at the back, which it was not (80 mm thick rear, 80 mm thick upper sides, 60 mm thick lower sides). The Americans used a Sherman armed with a long 76 mm gun, which could have easily penetrated a Tiger’s armor at the ranges presented in the movie.
The fate of the mock-ups is generally unknown, but they were probably given back to the army and converted back into regular tanks. These may have then been scrapped or they may have even seen service in the Yugoslav wars that followed.

Kelly’s Heroes had an outstanding cast, with three of the main protagonists played (from the left to right) by Donald Sutherland, Clint Eastwood, and Telly Savalas. This was a part of the iconic scene where these three confront the last Tiger tank. Source: Still from Kelly’s Heroes
A look at the amazing detail of the mock-up Tiger’s top part of the turret. Source:
A side view of the turret, showing many small details, such as the pistol port, the three smoke dischargers and even what looks like Zimmerit. Source:
The shape of the gun barrel was also quite well made. Given the much better understanding and information available on these vehicles, the American filmmakers probably had the help of historians and even soldiers who were in the war. Source:
It is possible that, for filming Kelly’s Heroes, the same modified T-34-85s were reused. The main difference was the use of new road wheels with different designs. This was surely done intentionally to further increase the resemblance to a Tiger’s suspension. Source:


In the world of cinema, tanks such as the T-34-85 were often used to portray German tanks. In many cases, no changes were made, while sometimes, attempts were made to adapt them to resemble a Tiger or other German tanks. Yugoslavian filmmakers, with the support of the JNA, made quite convincing replicas of the Tiger tanks, which saw use in a number of domestic films, and even in Kelly’s Heroes.

T-34-85 modified to imitate a Tiger tank. Illustrations by the illustrious Godzilla funded by our Patreon Campaign.


B. D. Dimitrijević and D. Savić (2011) Oklopne Jedinice Na Jugoslovenskom Ratistu 1941-1945, Institut za savremenu istoriju
B. B. Dimitrijević (2010) Modernizacija i Intervencija Jugoslovenske Oklopne Jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za savremenu istoriju
D. Predoević (2008) Oklopna vozila i oklopne postrojbe u drugom svjetskom ratu u Hrvatskoj, Digital Point Tiskara

Has Own Video WW2 German Improvised Vehicles

Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40

German Reich (1945)
Improvised Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun – At Least One Built

In the final months of the war, the Germans were losing men and materials on all fronts. Out of desperation, all kinds of improvised vehicles, mostly based on obsolete vehicles or simply whatever was at hand, were rushed into service. One such vehicle was built using a Panzer I Ausf.B chassis on top of which a 7.5 cm StuK 40 was placed, for use in the futile defense of Berlin in 1945

Panzer I Ausf.B with 7.5 cm StuK 40 in Berlin of 1945. Source:


By 1945, the German Army and its industry were in ruins. The Allied bombing campaigns, lack of resources, and the rapid advances of Germany’s enemies on their own soil made the production of new vehicles difficult. Despite this, the German war industry was desperately hanging on, producing limited quantities of new vehicles. By this point, these efforts were hopelessly insufficient to rearm the depleted German military formations. In desperation, some improvised vehicles were created by using all kinds of available chassis, ranging from experimental, obsolete, or even training vehicles, and adding whatever weapons were at hand.

Vehicles such as the Panzer I were reused in this manner, creating unusual and rare improvised fighting vehicles. The Panzer I Ausf.A and B were introduced as the first real German serially-produced tank in 1935. Even though it was obsolete by 1939, it still saw service throughout the war. After 1941, these were retired from service as combat tanks, but their chassis were reused for other purposes, mostly as training or ammunition supply roles. By 1945, their numbers were greatly diminished due to many factors, such as combat losses.

The Panzer I Ausf.B, due to its weak armor and armament, quickly became obsolete. As there were no other replacements, they remained in combat service up to 1941. After that point, the surviving Panzer Is were reused for secondary roles, such as training. Source:

Using such a vehicle as an improvised fighting platform speaks for itself in regard to German desperation at this point. Thanks to a surviving photograph, we know that at least one Panzer I Ausf.B was modified by removing the turret and parts of the superstructure and adding a 7.5 cm StuK 40 gun taken from a StuG III. Who exactly built it and when is unknown. What is known is that it was used during the defense of Berlin in 1945.


Given its improvised construction, this vehicle likely never received any form of proper designation. Possible designations such as 7.5 cm StuK 40 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I ohne Turm may have been used.This article will use Panzer I Ausf.B mit (English: with) 7.5 cm StuK 40 for the sake of simplicity.


The overall design of this vehicle is unfortunately not documented in any sources. Based on the only known photograph, several educated guesses about its overall construction.


The Panzer I hull appears to have been left unchanged. Like all German tanks, it could be divided into three sections: the front part where the transmission was placed, the central crew compartment, and the rear-positioned engine. The overall construction was made out of several armor plates welded together, with a firewall separating the engine compartment and the crew compartment.

Close-up view of the Panzer I’s hull interior. Source: T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.1-1 Panzerkampfwagen I


The suspension is another element that remained unchanged. It consisted of five road wheels per side. The first wheel used a coil spring mount design with an elastic shock absorber in order to prevent any outward bending. The remaining four wheels were mounted in pairs on a suspension cradle with leaf spring units. There was a front drive sprocket, rear idler, and four small return rollers.

The Panzer I Ausf.B was never fully reliable, especially when the chassis was converted for other purposes, such as the 15 cm sIG 33 auf Panzerkampfwagen I ohne Aufbau (English: Without a superstructure). Given the added weight of the 15 cm sIG 33 gun, the suspension was very prone to malfunctions and breakdowns.

This was likely also the case with the 7.5 cm L/48 gun, as the weight and recoil force when firing would likely cause damage to the suspension, as its design was never intended to be able to resist such stress.

Panzer I Ausf.B suspension. Note the five road wheels and four return rollers. Source: Modified from Panzer Tracts


The Panzer I Ausf.B was powered by a water-cooled Maybach NL 38 Tr, which was able to supply 100 hp at 3,000 rpm. The maximum speed with this engine was 40 km/h and only 15 km/h cross-country. The added weight of the gun, ammunition, and likely additional crew members on the Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40 would have led to an overall weight increase of possibly up to 2 tonnes, if not more. This would greatly affect the engine’s overall performance, although to what extent is unknown. The standard Panzer I fuel load capacity was around 144 liters, which provided an operational range of up to 170 km. By 1945, fuel was a scarce commodity for the Germans, so regardless, it is unlikely that this vehicle ever received any large enough quantities of fuel to go anywhere besides its station point.


The superstructure of this vehicle received a series of modifications that were necessary in order to install the large gun. The upper armor and the turret were removed. Parts of the rear armor appear to have been slightly cut down.

Two interesting features can be noticed on the right side of the superstructure. Firstly, there is an unidentified round-shaped object that casts a shadow on the superstructure. It is possible that this was a seat added for the loader, although it could also simply be an extended plate to provide the loader with more working space. In front of it, a larger flat plate with a handle can be seen. It appears not to be an original part of the Panzer I, as it is on the side that did not have any hatch. This part could also be intended to be lowered and provide the loader with more working space. In either case, due to a lack of information, we cannot be sure. Interestingly, on top of the frontsuperstructure, a small shield was added to cover the space between the gun shield and the mount.

A close-up view of this vehicle’s side superstructure. What appears to be a round-shaped object can be seen at the rear of the superstructure. In front of it, a hatch, or a simple armor plate with a handle, was added, although its purpose is unknown. Note the large ‘742’ painted on the vehicle’s side. Source:
An artist’s impression of this vehicle. Source:


The armor of the Panzer I Ausf.A and B was quite thin. The Panzer I’s front hull armor ranged from 8 to 13 mm. The side armor was 13 mm, the bottom 5 mm, and the rear 13 mm. The armor was made of rolled homogenous hardened plates with a Brinell hardness of 850. It was welded and formed the body of the superstructure and hull. Whilst insufficient to protect against tank and anti-tank gunfire, this armor was still adequate to provide protection from enemy small arms.

An illustration is showing the armor thickness around the tank. Source: Panzer Tracts

The crew operating the gun was only protected by the gun shield. The armor thickness of it is unknown, but it was likely only a few millimeters thick. Given the small working space for the gun operator and the loader, both would be quite exposed to the enemy’s small arms fire. Light armor does not necessarily mean that the vehicle was useless, thanks to its gun it could still fire at great ranges and from well-selected positions.

On the other hand, this was neither 1942 nor 1943, when German guns had a huge advantage over Soviet armored vehicles. By 1945, the Soviets employed tanks such as the T-34-85 and the IS-2, which had enough firepower to deal with German Tiger and Panther tanks at a distance, so a lightly protected Panzer I was surely no problem for them. It is also noteworthy that as this vehicle was used in the defense of Berlin, combat action was likely to occur at close ranges, making this vehicle quite exposed.


The main armament of this modified vehicle was the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 gun, which was probably taken from a damaged StuG III assault gun. This gun was developed by Krupp and Rheinmetall in 1942. It was initially used with a barrel length of L/43, although later that year it was increased to L/48. Both versions of the gun had a semi-automatic breech, which means that, after firing, the spent cartridge would be self-ejected, thus increasing the overall firing rate. It was fired electrically. When mounted on StuG III vehicles, the elevation of this gun went from –6° to +20°, while the traverse was 10° to either side. The elevation, depression, and traverse limits for this gun as mounted on the modified Panzer I are unknown.

A 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 installed on a StuG III Ausf.G Source:

Armor-piercing shells fired from this gun had a muzzle velocity of 790 m/s. The armor-piercing (Pz.Gr.39) round could penetrate 85 mm of armor (sloped at 30°) at 1 km. The maximum range of the high-explosive rounds was 3.3 km while, for armor-piercing, 1.4 to 2.3 km, depending on the type used. The gunner used the Selbstfahrlafetten Zielfernrohr Sfl.Z.F.1a gun sight to acquire direct targets. For indirect targets, on the other hand, either the Rundblickfernrohr 32 or 36 were used, which had a magnification of 5x and a field of view of 8°.

Close-up view of the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/43. This gun only differed from the later L/48 gun by virtue of the barrel length. Source: W. J. Spielberger Sturmgeschütz and its variant

In order to install this gun on the Panzer I’s hull, some modifications were needed. First, a stable platform base had to be placed inside the hull. On top of it, the 7.5 cm StuK 40 L/48 with its mount was placed. The protective recoil cylinder mantlet was not used on this vehicle. Given the gun’s weight, the Germans added a large travel lock in front of the gun. The whole gun installation would take up most of the Panzer I’s interior, making room for spare ammunition difficult. The only possible location where the ammunition would have been located was atop of the engine compartment. A minor change to the gun was the lack of the spent cartridge bag.

The 7.5cm StuK 40 was likely salvaged from a damaged StuG III vehicle at some point. The choice to mount such a large weapon on a weak chassis is difficult to understand. Source:


Normally, a vehicle like this modified Panzer I would have needed at least three crew members to be fully effective. A driver located inside the vehicle would have been the only crew member fully protected by armor, a gunner who would possibly have also acted as the commander positioned to the left of the gun, and a loader positioned opposite the gunner. The two gun operators would have had quite limited space to effectively operate this vehicle. Based on the German’s lack of manpower by 1945, it is also probable that this vehicle may have had an even smaller crew of possibly two. This meant that these two had to perform other tasks too, in addition to their original ones.

Ideally, it would take three crew members to effectively operate this vehicle. This model of the Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40 clearly shows the positions of the two gun operators, with the gunner to the left and the loader on the right. It also shows how these two would be exposed to enemy fire, despite having a front-mounted shield. Source:

Was the Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40 Used in Combat?

Nothing is known about the history of this vehicle. Based on the available photograph, we can assume that it was modified in and saw service in Berlin. A detail that helps us identify where the photo of the Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40 was taken is the command tower that can be seen in the background. Berlin was defended by three immense Flakturme (English: Flak towers): Flakturm Humboldhain, Flakturm Tiergarten, and Volkspark Friedrichshain. These were basically massive, reinforced concrete bunkers equipped with several larger-caliber anti-aircraft guns. Each gun tower was provided with more minor but still huge command towers. Their purpose was to relay information about enemy air activity.

Flakturm Humboldhain was placed on a small hill that does not appear in the photograph, so it can be excluded. The command tower for ‘Zoo-bunker’ lacked some features, such as the four round-shaped concrete platforms located on the tower’s top, that the tower in the picture has. The most probable explanation is that the tower in the background belongs to the Volkspark Friedrichshain tower. The design of the command tower is similar and also there are buildings to the left of the Panzer I’s position which match those in the photo.

The command tower in the background helps identify this vehicle being used in Berlin. Also note the building on the left side of the Panzer I, just beneath the gun breach protective shield. Both of these give us an indication that this vehicle saw use (or even combat action) near the Volkspark Friedrichshain tower. Source:
The position of the ‘Zoo-tower’ and its command tower. The command tower lacked the large round-shaped platforms, so it is unlikely that the Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40 was positioned next to it. Source:
Aerial photograph showing the area of the Friedrichshain Flakturm where the Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40 was photographed. Source:

The missing track links may indicate that this vehicle was not fully operational and was instead towed to its defense point. Given that the picture of it was taken in an open space and the Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40’s weak protection, this would be an illogical thing to do. It is possible that by the time the photograph was taken, it was already in the process of being salvaged for scrap. On the other hand, it may have been in the process of being towed before being abandoned in a rush.

Another possibility is that this vehicle was at some point converted to this gun configuration to be used as a training vehicle with the gun not actually intended to be fired. While this at first seems logical, given the weight of the gun which would have put too much stress on the chassis, this seems highly unlikely.

In any case, the fate of this vehicle is unknown, but it was likely scrapped after the war by the Soviets.


Placing a large gun such as the 7,5 cm StuK 40 on a chassis weak and prone to malfunctions difficult to understand. Even in desperation, whoever built it must have known that the recoil force of the gun was simply too much for the Panzer I’s chassis to handle. Firing could have easily led to the breakdown of some components of the suspension or the engine. Armor protection was almost non-existent. Even using it as a static emplacement would be suicidal, as the vehicle’s height would not have allowed for it to be easily camouflaged.

Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40. Illustrations by the illustrious Godzilla funded by our Patreon Campaign.

Panzer I Ausf.B mit 7.5 cm StuK 40 Technical specification

Crew 3 (commander/gunner, loader, and driver)
Engine Maybach NL 38 TL 6-cylinder water-cooled petrol
Speed 40 km/h, 15 km/h (cross-country)
Range 170 km
Primary Armament 7.5 cm StuK 40


D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
D. Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
Walter J. Spielberger (1993) Sturmgeschütz and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
T. Anderson (2016) Sturmartillerie Spierhead Of the Infantry, Osprey Publishing
P. Chamberlain and H. Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
Ian V. Hogg (1975) German Artillery of World War Two, Purnell Book Services Ltd
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle Panzer Tracts No.1-1 Panzerkampfwagen I

Has Own Video WW2 US Heavy Tanks

Heavy Tank M6

United States of America (1940-1944)
Heavy Tank – 40 Built

The United State’s first attempt at a heavy tank came during the First World War with the Mark VIII or Liberty Tank, a joint-collaboration with the British and French. The US would subsequently adopt 100 of these vehicles. During the Interwar period, US interest in heavy tanks dropped significantly. The Mark VIII would be fully phased out by 1934 and the requirement for a heavy tank was removed from the Ordnance Book of Standards in May 1936. However, with the start of the Second World War in 1939, the process which would eventually lead to the M6 Heavy Tank began.

General Barnes and key members of the industry view a model of the T1 Heavy Tank. Photo: Firepower


The lack of interest in heavy tanks during the Interwar period was down primarily to two factors:

  • inline with American isolationism, funding for the army was very limited and did not permit designing and building such large and expensive vehicles
  • many military leaders believed that light and medium tanks, which could be produced in more quantity, had tactical superiority

This situation changed with the outbreak of hostilities in Europe in September 1939, following the German invasion of Poland. Seeing the onset of a new major European war, the US had a sudden renewed interest in a heavy tank (defined as any tank with more than 2 inches (50.8 mm) of armor) as they did not have one. Although funding was still low, some preliminary work on a suitable design began at Aberdeen Proving Grounds that month.

The issue of funding changed with the German breakthrough at Sedan in mid-May 1940, reports that the Germans had developed 70- and 120-ton (63.5 and 108.8 tonne) heavy tanks, and the growing realization of America’s war unpreparedness. As a result, congressional funding for the army was finally increased.

On May 20th 1940, the Chief of Infantry, Brigadier General Asa Singleton, proposed that a program to design a heavy tank be started. By this point, a heavy tank was redefined as any design over 30 tons (27.2 tonnes). In true American fashion, Singleton recommended designing two heavy tank classes, with combat weights of 50 and 80 tons (45.3 and 72.5 tonnes).

The first of the two designs was for a 50-ton vehicle. Dimensionally, it was to be similar to the M2 Medium tank (5.38 m long x 2.59 m wide, x 2.82 m high), but was radically different in every other regard, and would have likely looked more like the M3 Lee (M3 Medium tank, 5.64 m long x 2.72 m wide x 3.12 m high). Armor was to be 3 inches (76 mm) thick on vertical surfaces, with a hull mounted gun with a caliber of between 60 and 75 mm, plus a 37 to 50 mm caliber gun in a turret, plus some additional light armament.

The second recommended type was for a heavy tank of no more than 80 tons and with not less than 3 inches (76 mm) of armor. This vehicle was to carry a hull-mounted gun of between 75 and 105 mm in caliber, or an 81 mm mortar, hull or turret mounted, with a secondary armament of a turret mounted 37 to 50 mm caliber gun plus a ludicrous minimum number of machine guns set at 8.

Two days later (May 22nd), a third and final revision was made, with Ordinance Committee Minutes (OCM) 15842 being issued calling for a heavy tank of 50 tons. Whilst this weight conformed to the first of the two classes of heavy tank proposed by Gen. Singleton, it was to be substantially different in form. The design requirements of this 50-ton class heavy tank were that it was to have two primary turrets, each housing a 75 mm T6 gun and each covering a field of 250º with powered traverse.

Additionally, there were to be two secondary turrets covering a full 360º, also with powered traverse. One of the secondary turrets would carry a 37 mm gun and a .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun in a combination mount, while the other turret would swap the 37 mm gun for a 20 mm gun. A further four machine guns would be fitted in the hull in ball mounts, two located at the rear and the other two guns in the sloped front plate. These two front guns would have electrical firing mechanisms to allow their use by the driver as fixed guns. All of this was to be protected by no less than 3 inches (75 mm) of armor.

This multi-turreted monstrosity was approved on July 11th. However, a few months later, in October, these specifications were heavily changed. The new specifications removed the multiple turret requirement and changed the main armament to be mounted in a single large turret with a 69-inch (175.2 cm) diameter turret ring. The new single turret was to use the 3-inch T9 anti-aircraft gun modified for tank usage, in a combination mount with a 37 mm M5E1 gun. The turret was to have 360º of rotation either manually or by an electric traverse system being designed by Westinghouse, a powered elevation system, and would have a gyro-stabilizer. Later, the power elevation feature was dropped, though the elevation stabilizer remained. Additionally, it was to have four machine guns and 75 mm of armor.

This new arrangement was formally outlined in a new OCM on October 24th and was approved on November 22nd. The turret layout was to have the commander located on the left side of the 3-inch gun, opposite to the set up adopted on later American tanks. The commander would have a single .30 caliber (7.62 mm) machine gun in a cupola identical to that on the Medium Tank M3. The loader was provided with a .50 (12.7 mm) caliber machine gun installed in a rotor mount in the right rear of the turret, capable of 60° of elevation and -5° of depression and an unknown traverse for use against air and ground targets. The intended crew at this point was either 6 or 7 men. Later, when the tank was standardized, this would be specified as a crew of just 6. The transmission was to have a capacity of 90% of the torque of a 1,000 hp engine, with a top speed of 23 mph (37 km/h). A contract for production was placed in August 1940 with the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania for the design and production of a pilot vehicle, as well as a production order for 50 more.

Initial T1 design. The first production T1E2 looked very similar to this. Interestingly, this drawing indicates the tank used VVSS suspension at this point. Photo: NA
Specifications of ‘Heavy Tank T1’ (initial design after November 1940)
Crew 6 Engine Wright 9-cylinder air-cooled radial (petrol) producing 960 hp at 2,300 rpm.
Weight 57 tons
(51.7 tonnes)
Transmission 5-speed hydramatic or torque converter with high/low range
Length 23 ft. 1 in.
(7.04 m)
Speed 23 mph
(37 km/h)
Width 10 ft. 3 in.
(3.12 m)
Range 150 miles
(241 km)
Height 10 ft. 2 ⅜ in.
(3.12 m)
Slope 35 deg.
Armament Turret Hull
Front 3 in. & 37 mm Twin 0.50 cal. MG
Two 0.30 cal. MG
Cupola 0.30 cal. MG n/a
Rear 0.50 cal. MG n/a
Internal Two 0.45 cal. sub machine guns (crew)
Armor Turret Hull
Front 3 in. (effective thickness)
(76 mm)
3 in. (effective thickness)
(76 mm)
Sides 2 – 2 ½ in.
(51 – 64 mm)
2 – 2 ½ in.
(51 – 64 mm)
Rear 2 – 2 ½ in.
(51 – 64 mm)
2 – 2 ½ in.
(51 – 64 mm)
M6 Development Chart
Credit: Author

Design Choices and Issues

There were several issues in designing the tank. Firstly, its weight of 50 tons meant it would ideally need a powerful engine capable of 1,000 hp. The US did not have any suitable natural automotive engines capable of this power and so decided on adapting a large aircraft engine. After testing several, the best option was decided to be the Wright G-200 radial engine, a variant of the R-1820 aircraft engine. It produced 960 hp at 2,300 rpm and was deemed sufficient for the tank. However, no automotive transmission existed that could handle the torque and power of such a heavy and powerful engine at the time and this was to become a critical part of the project.

Initially, several different transmissions were considered, including torque converters, hydramatic transmissions, and gas-electric transmissions. However, the gas-electric drive was estimated to add some 5 tons (4.5 tonnes) of weight to the vehicle. In addition, a more conventional synchromesh transmission was considered, but due to other issues, it was rejected. Ultimately, it was decided to use a hydramatic transmission, but also to further study torque converters as an alternative. Tanks with the hydramatic transmission were to be referred to as the T1.

Nevertheless, during this, General Electric Company did some further studies into gas-electric transmissions and found that the weight increase would not be more than 2 tons (1.8 tonnes). As such, it would offer many advantages. A OCM was issued recommending that an electric drive and steering mechanism be designed for installation in the pilot T1, which would now be referred to as the T1E1. Work continued on a quick basis to complete the design and production of the pilot model. It was hoped the hydramatic transmission would be available for installation in May 1941. Nonetheless, numerous problems delayed this, and when the pilot was finally finished in August 1941 with a twin disc torque converter instead of the hydromatic, it was given the designation T1E2.

Pilot T1E2 at the Baldwin Locomotive Works on September 19th 1941. At this time, the mounts for the driver’s two .30 caliber machine guns had not been installed. Note the original bow gunner’s mount. Photo: Firepower

Following production of the pilot, it went through some preliminary testing at the Baldwin Locomotive Works. Some modifications were required to minimize vapor lock and to improve the transmission and shifting mechanism. A rather serious issue, the overheating and rapid wear of the steering brakes, would require the development of a completely new brake lining, and this was found during these tests.

On December 8th 1941, the tank was formally presented to the Ordinance Department with a demonstration alongside a production M3 medium tank. Despite its impressive show, there were still many problems which would require solutions, even though the sudden state of war called for production at the earliest date possible. During the demonstration, for instance, the hydraulic system failed, cutting off pressure for the power steering and gear shifting mechanisms. As such, for the last 3 miles (4.8 km) of the run, only mechanical steering was available, the transmission was stuck in gear, and the pinion shaft in the turret traverse mechanism had been twisted off while the turret was rotating.

Rear of the first T1E2, showing the rear machine gun emplacement and large muffler. Photo: Firepower

Following this demonstration, the tank was torn apart and many modifications were done, including modifications to simplify the cooling systems and the moving of the exhaust manifolds. This was followed by redesigning and rebuilding the rear hull to simulate the intended design for production units. With no first hand experience in the war to go off, the US looked to troop trials and British combat experiences, and removed items on the T1E2 and subsequent production vehicles, including the commander, loader, and driver’s machine guns. Other features desired to be changed or removed included the door in front of the driver. This would have necessitated the redesign of the front plate, causing serious delays in production, so, instead, modifications were done to shrink the size of this door and to add periscopes for the driver and bow gunner. Additionally, the bow gunner’s machine gun placement was redesigned so that the twin .50 caliber machine guns were side by side on the same level.

The production turret would do away with the commander’s cupola and instead provide a flat double door, like that already on the M4 Sherman, with the rotating ring on this hatch fitted with a .30 or .50 anti-aircraft machine gun. The rotor mounted .50 caliber machine gun in the rear of the pilot turret was eliminated and the pistol port on the rear turret wall was shifted towards the right rear side of the turret.


While this new turret design had neither been produced or tested, nor had the gas-electric transmission, pressure from the US entering the war caused the release of the T1E2 for production prior to completion of tests. This was expected to result in tanks with undesirable features, even if it would also produce tanks to meet the critical war situation. Any necessary changes could be introduced later without interrupting the production program. This was already the policy with the M3 Medium Tank and it was deemed successful.

A significant quantity of tanks was expected to be needed, so production of both welded and cast versions of the tanks was seen as necessary to meet these needs. Two welded variants of the T1 were proposed and accepted: the first, designated the T1E3, would use the General Motors diesel engine and the twin disc torque converter. The second variant was designated the T1E4 and would have used four General Motors 6-71 engines and a pair of hydramatic transmissions.

Due to continually changing attitudes in the Army, later production cuts and standardization of the T1E2 and T1E3 into the M6 and M6A1 respectively, it was decided that the still unfinished T1 and T1E4 models would be canceled. This decision meant that, despite being finished and delivered to Aberdeen Proving Ground, the special hydramatic transmission for the T1 was never installed into a tank. The T1E4 had not progressed beyond the design stage when canceled. The T1E1 was proposed to be standardized as the M6A2, but this was rejected, although the tank was still unofficially referred to as the M6A2 in many documents.

A view of the redesigned rear on the T1E2 pilot. Note the rotor machine gun turret and coupla. Photo: Firepower
Front view of the T1E2 Pilot. Note that the bow gunner’s gun sight is broken and bent. The man in the photo is Brigadier General William Ayes Borden. Photo: The Design, Development and Production of Tanks in World War II


This rushed design stage was followed with production, and due to the critical needs of the British in addition to the American training program, a short time later, formal orders would be placed for the T1E2 and T1E3 in April 1942. In May, these two would be standardized as the M6 and M6A1 respectively. While initial funds had been allocated for some 1,084 tanks and an end target of 5,000, this order would be cut down to just 115 due to changing requirements of the Armored Force after the new Army Supply Program. These production cuts were also responsible for the demise of the T1 and T1E4.

These cancellations left the T1E1 in limbo over whether it would be produced or not. Nonetheless, it survived, thanks to its electric drive showing exceptionally good performance in initial tests, being able to handle turns and curves and full 360° pivot turns with comparative ease compared to other tanks. General Barnes informally ordered 27 additional electric propulsion and control systems to be finished by the end of 1942. An OCM issued on August 10th 1942 also called for a limited procurement of 115 T1E1 tanks, as the Services of Supply had directed in June that procurement of heavy tanks be increased from the 115 to 230. These additional tanks were to be allocated to International Aid, with the U.S. Army keeping the 115 T1E1 tanks and the 50 M6 and 65 M6A1s being allocated for Britain.

Production was expected in October or November 1942. However, despite the program now seeming to finally be on track, the production schedule was not met and user opinion of the tank was increasingly negative. Commanding General of the Armored Force General Jacob Devers wrote in December that “due to its tremendous weight and limited tactical use, there is no requirement in the Armored Force for the heavy tank. The increase in the power of the armament of the heavy tank does not compensate for the heavier armor.”

In recommending the cancellation of the M6 program, Devers reflected the opinion of the Armored Force that it was preferable to ship two 30-ton medium tanks in place of one 60-ton heavy tank. Hearing this, the Services of Supply approved canceling the M6 program, with 40 tanks produced as an economical end point. The final production total was 43 with the T1E1 and T1E2 pilots and a single production M6A1 pilot made by Fisher. Otherwise, all 40 production M6 tanks were made by Baldwin, consisting of 8 M6s, 12 M6A1s, and 20 T1E1s.

Production M6. Note the lack of cupola and round sides showing the cast construction. Photo: Armored Force Board



The turret of the M6 was unique among US tanks owing to its mounting of both a 3-inch (76 mm) gun and a secondary 1.5-inch (37 mm) gun in a single large turret. This arrangement was not considered to be satisfactory and it appears there was intention to redesign the turret for a third time to make it better, but with the cancellation of the project, this came to nothing. The turret was equipped with a vertical stabilizer and could traverse up to 18°/s and had a turret ring diameter of 69 inches.

T1E2 Pilot crushes a truck. (Photo: Reddit)


The main armament of the M6 was the 3-inch M7 and the 37 mm M6, with 75 and 202 rounds carried respectively. Both guns could be depressed and elevated from -10° to 30° and were equipped with a vertical stabilizer.

Ammunition for the 37 mm gun was stored entirely in the turret. The 76 mm rounds were carried in the sponsons on either side of the hull, with some ready rack ammunition carried in the turret.

Guns and Ammunition for the M6 Heavy Tank
Name (76mm) M62 APCBC/HE M79 AP M88 HC BI HE Common Mk III (Navy type shell) M42A1 HE
Type Armor Piercing Capped Ballistic Capped/ High Explosive Armor Piercing Smoke High Explosive High Explosive
Muzzle Velocity 2600 ft/sec
(792 m/s)
2600 ft/sec
(792 m/s)
900 ft/sec
(274 m/s)
n/a 2800 ft/sec
(853 m/s)
Weight (Complete Shell) 27.24 lb. (12.35 kg) 26.56 lb. (12.04 kg) 15.40 lb.
(6.98 kg)
n/a 24.91 lb.
(11.29 kg)
Weight (Projectile) 15.44 lb. (7.0 kg)
filler: 0.18 lb. (0.077 kg) Dunnite
15 lb. (6.8 kg) 7.38 lb. (3.34 kg) n/a
filler: 0.28 lb. (0.127 kg) Black Powder and TNT
filler: 0.68lbs
Penetration 3.5 inches (88 mm) at 1000 yards (914 m) at 30° obliquity 3.6 inches (92 mm) at 1000 yards (914 m) at 30° obliquity n/a n/a n/a
Name (37mm) M51 APC M74 AP M2 Canister (122 steel balls) M63 HE
Type Armor Piercing Capped Armor Piercing Canister High Explosive
Muzzle Velocity 2900 ft/sec
(844 m/s)
2900 ft/sec
(844 m/s)
2500 ft/sec
(762 m/s)
2600 ft/sec
(792 m/s)
Weight Complete shell 3.48 lb.
(1.6 kg)
3.48 lb.
(1.6 kg)
3.31 lb.
(1.5 kg)
3.13 lb.
(1.4 kg)
Weight Projectile 1.92 lb.
(0.9 kg)
1.92 lb.
(0.9 kg)
1.94 lb.
(0.9 kg)
1.61 lb
(0.7 kg)
filler: 0.085lbs
(0.038 kg)
Penetration 1.8 inches (46 mm) at 1000 yards (914 m) at 30° obliquity n/a n/a n/a

Close-in defense was provided via a dual .50 cal. machine gun controlled by the bow gunner, which had 30° of traverse with -10° depression and 60° elevation. The commander had a pintle mounted .50 cal. machine gun for close-in and anti-aircraft defense, which was capable of -10° depression and 80° elevation and could be freely rotated left and right.

These 3 machine guns were provided with a total of 6,900 rounds of ammunition.

An interesting fault of the bow gunner’s mounting was that, if it was elevated high up and the 3-inch gun was depressed and traversing, it was possible for it to strike the twin .50 cal. mount and possibly cause damage. To prevent this, the tank had electrical devices that saw if the gun was being traversed into the danger area, which would then flash a red light to alert the bow gunner to depress the guns.

The driver was given a .30 cal. machine gun on the right side of the front of the tank with 5,500 rounds and capable of 5° of elevation and -10° of depression. Traverse was acquired by physically turning the tank to whatever target the driver wanted to shoot. This driver fired machine gun setup was common on early US vehicles from WW2, and was exceptionally poor in practice. The driver had a very poor field of vision to start with, which complicated aiming the machine gun for even suppressing fire, never mind accurate fire. Furthermore, asking the driver to aim and fire a machine gun while trying to drive the vehicle to avoid enemy fire or to move to where the commander requested was just too much. Medium tank crews frequently removed them, and post-war American tanks after the M4, as well as later versions of the M4, did away with the driver’s machine guns altogether.

In the event the crew needed to use the pistol ports or needed to abandon the vehicle, a pair of M1928A1 Thompson sub-machine guns were provided, one in the hull and one in the turret. These were provided with a total of 1,200 rounds and the crew was also given 24 hand grenades.

M6 with features labeled. Photo US Army Signal Corps


The M6 had a lot of optics for crew visibility. Three pistol ports and 5 rotating periscopes gave the crew some outward visibility. Two of the pistol ports were on either side of the hull for the driver, bow gunner, and second loader to look out of respectively, and the third was on the rear of the turret. The driver and bow gunner both had dedicated front vision glass to look out of, and the driver’s hatch could be raised if desired for even better visibility.

The commander, loader, gunner, bow gunner, and driver were provided with M8 or M6 sighting periscopes with M39 telescopes integrated, providing a x1.8 magnification and a field of view of 6°. Oddly, despite the provisions for them from photographic evidence, it appears the bow gunner and driver’s periscopes were frequently removed.

The gunner was also provided with a direct sighting option via the M15 telescope, which featured a x1.12 magnification and a field of view of 29°. The gunner and bow gunner could also use the M8 sighting periscope for aiming. In these instances, the periscopes would automatically elevate and depress depending on the position of the guns. The telescopic sight was intended to be replaced and there was work on developing a new telescope designated M42, a x3 magnification optic with a field of view of 9.6°, but it is not known if this was adopted or used.

Production M6, note the rounded sides of the cast hull. Photo: Firepower


For its weight and size, the M6’s armor was rather weak, which was realized during development. Its construction consisted of either cast or welded armor plates, depending on the variant. The thickness of the front plate was to be on a 5 inches (127 mm) basis. Basis meant that the plate would equate to 5 inches of armor when angled. In practice, this was not achieved, and the M6’s actual front plate was only 4 inches (102 mm) thick and at 30° from the vertical, meaning the armor was closer to 4.5 inches (114 mm).

Side armor on the M6 was equally disappointing. The fighting compartment was protected by 2.5 inches (63 mm) and the lower sides, where the tracks were, were protected further by a 1 inch (25 mm) thick skirt which covered the suspension components. Engine bay side armor was just 2 inches (50 mm), rear armor was 2 inches (50 mm), and the roof and floor of the tank was 1 inch (25.4 mm) thick.

Front, side, and rear armor on the turret was 3.5 inches (88 mm) thick and the roof was 1 3/8ths inches (35 mm) thick.

Visually the T1E1/M6 and M6A1 can be differentiated by looking at the hull front, the T1E1/M6 will have round edges side plates of the hull front owing to being cast construction, while the M6A1 will have straight angled plates.

For comparative purposes, despite being nearly twice the weight and having thicker plates, the effective armor on the M6 was scarcely better than the M4 simply because the M6’s plates were less angled. The UK felt the armor was weak overall and requested the armor be thicker. The US agreed with this and made a revised armor specification for future production vehicles. This did not happen with the cancellation of the project, but the armor would have been changed as follows: the same 5-inch (127 mm) basis upper front plate (UFP) was kept, but the side armor was enhanced to 3.5 inches (88 mm) with the 1 inch (25 mm) thick side skirt for added protection. The turret armor was to be enhanced to 4 inches (102 mm) all around. Otherwise, the armor would have been the same as the other M6. The increased armor was expected to add about 9,500 lb. (4,309 kg) in weight and would have brought the tank’s weight up to 68 tons (61.68 tonnes). Additionally, it was intended for the tank’s ammunition to be armored on production vehicles, likely to protect it from possible shell fragments hitting and then possibly detonating rounds.

M6 alongside a Light Tank M5. Photo: Authors collection

Engine and Transmission

The engine of the M6 was the 9 cylinder Wright G-200, delivering 800 hp at 2,300 rpm, which, depending on the variant, was either connected to an electrical transmission or to a twin disc torque converter transmission. The electrical transmission had no gear settings, only forward and reverse. To prevent the voltages generated by the electrical motors from becoming too great, the vehicle was deliberately limited to 20 mph (32 km/h) on level terrain, and 22 mph (35 km/h) on a steep downgrade in both forward and reverse.

Both transmissions were technological marvels for the time, both were cutting edge and the first of their kind to be used in a production AFV. The majority of cars and every tank at that time used manual transmissions. These new transmissions had the advantages of simplicity of use and simpler driving technique which would have sped up training drivers. This would have made driving while under combat fire far more simpler than in other tanks, like the M4, which had a fully manual transmission. Lastly, they likely would have increased the lifespan of the automotive parts by preventing situations like a driver misshifting or accidentally grinding gears while trying to shift. This advantage was even more noticeable in the electrical T1E1, where it did not have any gear shifting or even pedals, just two handles for controlling power on each track, thus making driving even easier than probably any other tank in the world at the time.

T1E1 controls. Photo: Tank Development 1940-45

The mechanical transmission variants used an automatic gear system, which used two gear sticks. The first had three positions, forward was low speed, middle was neutral, and back was high speed. The second gear switch had two positions, forward and reverse, which were used in conjunction with a transmission brake pedal. While automatic, driving was not like modern automatics. To get the tank moving, the driver first needed to get the engine started, let everything warm up and then follow this procedure:

  1. Depress the transmission brake pedal then release the steering levers from the full rear position to the full forward position to disengage the parking brakes
  2. Put the gear shifter into forwards, then shift the 2nd stick into the low speed position
  3. After speeding up the engine a bit, gradually release the transmission brake while also depressing the throttle pedal. For high speed operation, when a reasonable speed has reached, according to terrain, lift off the accelerator, depress the transmission brake pedal to slow down the torque converter, pull the 2nd stick back into the high position. release the transmission brake and then press the accelerator to resume speed
  4. To reverse the vehicle, a complete stop must be made and throttle closed to idling speed, press the transmission brake pedal, then pull the gear shifter into reverse and then pull the 2nd stick into what was the high speed position, the vehicle is now in reverse.

The Electric T1E1 was very different from its mechanical counterpart. The T1E1s did not have a transmission, instead the engine was coupled to a large DC generator which converted the engine’s power into electrical current, from where it was sent to two electrical motors, each independent of each other and connected to sprockets on either side of the tank to drive the tracks. By controlling the electrical current to each motor, the torque could be controlled very smoothly from maximum in one direction to maximum in the other direction. Thanks to this, turning could be done even easier, the forward torque on one track was increased while the torque on the other track was reversed. This approach had other benefits. The track that was being reversed actually ended up acting as a generator taking power from its track and applying it to the other motor, meaning there was no power loss while slowing down or stopping one track in a turn as compared to its mechanical counterpart.

For driving, the T1E1 was also far different yet even simpler than its mechanical counterpart. For control, the driver was provided with two handles and each controlled one track. With both levers pushed forward, the vehicle would go forward. If the driver pulled them back, the tank would stop. If he kept them pulled back, the tank would start reversing. This same method was used for steering by varying the amount of push and pull on each handle, which would make the tank turn.

The top speed on the mechanical transmissioned vehicles is unclear. In testing, at 960 bhp, a speed of 27 mph (43 km/h) was obtained, and at 615 hp, 22 mph (35 km/h). As the vehicles made 800 hp in service, true top speed was likely somewhere in the middle. Top speed in reverse is not known.

The M6, M6A1, and T1E1 could all comfortably traverse up to a 50% grade (26.57°) slope and be held on such a slope with the parking brake. The tanks carried 477 gallons (1,806 l) of 80-octane fuel. The cylinders were numbered in a clockwise direction, with the firing order being 1,3,5,7,9,2,4,6,8, with ignition timing being cylinder 1 at 10° before top center on the compression stroke.


The M6 used a new suspension for the time, a Horizontal Volute Spring Suspension or HVSS. This was an incremental improvement on the typical US suspension, Vertical Volute Spring Suspension or VVSS. Instead of mounting the springs vertically, they were changed to horizontal mounting. In practice, this made the suspension stronger at the expense of being heavier. It also made it easier to replace wheels.

The wheel setup was four bogie mounts per side, consisting of two double roadwheels per bogie, with four return rollers per side.

The tracks were T31 tracks with a width of 25.75 inches (654 mm) with 99 track links per side. Ground pressure was 13 psi (89.6 kPa)

T1E2 Pilot alongside an M3. Note the original two .30 cal machine guns in the hull for the driver. On production vehicles, only the right machine gun was retained. Photo: Firepower

Other Systems

The M6 had an assortment of miscellaneous equipment. For alerting people and other vehicles, a siren was fitted to the tank. For internal communication, a RC-39 interphone was provided. Long range communication was provided by a SCR-506. This radio set transmitted on a 2 to 4.5 MHz frequency over a range of 126 channels. The receiver covered a frequency range of 2 to 6 MHz and could receive 201 channels each spaced 20 kHz apart. Range on a good day with CW (Morse code) was 50 miles (80.4 km) and 20 miles (32 km) on voice power. Output was 50 to 90 W on CW and 12.5 to 22.5 W on voice.

SCR-506-T2. Photo: TM 11-487A

In the event of engine fires, the M6 mounted six cylinders with 10 lb. (4.5 kg) of CO2 in the engine bay. These were tied to two handles that each controlled 3 cylinders. Two handles were provided in the hull for the driver and two handles were mounted externally on the side of the hull. In the event of an engine fire, the driver could pull one handle and keep the other in reserve or pull both in case of a severe fire, and by varying how far he pulled, the amount of CO2 released could be varied. He could also then release the handles once the fire was suppressed and keep any CO2 left in the now partially used tanks in reserve. In the event of fires in the fighting compartment, two 4 lb. (1.3 kg) hand held fire extinguishers were carried, one in the turret and one in the fighting compartment.

Interestingly, the electric transmissioned T1E1 also had provisions for remote control to allow someone outside the tank to control it from a box that connected to the tank; this was largely intended to allow moving the tank into small spaces, like a railroad car.

Remote control unit for the T1E1. Photo: Tank Development 1940-45
First Production M6A1. Note the straight plates on the front of the hull sides that show the welded construction, also note the small bulge on the hull behind the turret, where the manual handles for the CO2 extinguisher were placed. Photo: Firepower


The M6’s crew consisted of 6 men. In the turret, the commander occupied the left side of the turret, while the gunner occupied the forward front of the right side, with the loader behind him. In the hull, the driver and bow gunner were side by side, with the second loader located behind the driver.

The position of the two loaders was rather peculiar. The second loader was positioned behind the driver but in front of the turret wall and turret floor, so he could only access 76 mm ammunition and his ability to actually load the gun directly was nonexistent due to being blocked off. The most he could do was pass shells through cuts in the turret wall to various members in the turret. Though not mentioned, it is the author’s opinion that in light of this, he was probably doing two roles, radio operator primarily and an assistant loader whenever free, passing shells to the turret crew, like the French Somua S35’s radio operator.

The turret loader’s position was equally poor, as access to the 37 mm gun was seriously limited by the breech of the 76 mm. In actual combat, it would probably fall to the commander to load the 37 mm gun, as he would have been the only person with good direct access to the gun.

Remains of the turret wall and floor on the surviving T1E1. The cut in the turret wall is one of three and is the only good access the second loader had to pass shells. At certain turret angles, his ability to pass shells would be largely non-existent. Photo: David Lueck. Primeportal
The 76 mm gun’s breach on the surviving T1E1, showing the poor access to the 37 mm gun to it’s left. Photo: David Lueck. Primeportal


While the M6 may have been canceled and with few future prospects, the Army still saw itself stuck with 43 tanks. It decided to condense most of them into a heavy tank unit and base them at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for extended trials in case any components might be of value in the future. Additionally, a few M6 vehicles were tested at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland, and General Motors Milford Proving Grounds, Michigan. This test period would last from at least July 1942 to at least mid-1944.

T1E1 pilot on a pontoon bridge, December 1941. Photo: NA

Steering Testing

The M6 was designed around the same steering method used in the M2, M3, and M4 tanks, namely a disk type steering brake. This was a very simple method of steering and quite common on US vehicles. The driver had two levers, one for each track. If he applied pressure on either handle, it would apply the brakes using this. The driver could vary the pressure on either track and steer the tank left or right.

On the M6, this was assisted by hydraulic pumps of the Hycon type provided by Hydraulic Controls (Hycon) of Chicago. This was later changed for the sake of testing to a manual system with a quartermaster vacuum booster to assist and it was found that, at most, the driver only needed to exert a maximum of 50 lb. (22.7 kg) of force to control the vehicle. When tested, this was found to be quite satisfactory, with the tank being driven over a figure-8 course. The steering was considered to be quite light. A second test was then done with the vacuum booster disconnected and the tank driven manually. This was also considered to be quite satisfactory, being no heavier than the standard medium tank. Following this development, there were expectations that this vacuum boosted control would be used in production tanks, with the first 20 vehicles using Hycon types and then switching to the new system, but this was not to be and all production tanks used the Hycon type hydraulics.

Suspension Testing

Unique to the M6 at the time was its use of horizontal volute spring suspension, or HVSS. There was much interest around using this suspension in other tanks, for example, the T14 and British Excelsior, so it was heavily tested on the M6. Initially, there were significant issues with it. During tests at Aberdeen, the M6 was found to have a considerably high propensity to throw tracks. This was especially common over heavily rutted ground for a variety of reasons. One such reason was down to mud, which would clog up the grousers on the tracks, typically just resulting in the tank subsequently skidding or slipping, though, in severe cases, it could throw the tracks. One of the earliest noticed issues with the suspension side of things was faults in the transverse movement of the bogie arms. Though this fault had been quickly attended to, there were other worse issues, such as the volute springs seizing up with mud and dirt, which then restricted the rebound movement of the bogie wheels, issues with the track design, and lastly, issues with the sprocket teeth breaking. While work continued on these issues, the HVSS suspension issues were considered severe enough that all production of HVSS was discontinued in August 1942, pending a solution.

M6 suspension unit showing how heavily bogged with mud it would get. Photo: Tank Development, 1940-45
M6 showing the rutted ground and obstacles believed to have caused track throwing. Photo: Armored Force

By November 1942, substantial progress had been made on the suspension, with the issue being seemingly finally solved. The solution appeared to be to take the rearmost bogie assembly before the lead up of the track to the sprocket, and weld the two bogie arms together. The design in use before, where both were independent, meant the bogie wheel on the lower side would tend to come down on the track guides and, in turn, ended up actually guiding the track off the sprockets. The new design however, was such that on hills and side slopes, where the M6 would often throw tracks before, it would no longer do so. With the two bogie arms welded together, one would be in contact with the track until the track was leveled out. Only then would the second arm contact it. Sprocket teeth breakage was fixed by changing from the original cast steel design to a new better design.

M6 showing a thrown track. Photo: Tank Development, 1940-45

Not everything was positive though, as a new problem with the bogies wheel design was found. Specifically, after 980 miles (1,577 km) of running, the web of the wheels fractured around the welds. This issue was relatively minor, and was quickly fixed with a new design for the webs.

New web design vs the old design that broke. Photo: SR reports

Additionally, the fix on the bogie arms, welding them together, was unsatisfactory in prolonged testing. Particularly, it was very hard to prevent the welds from breaking as the tank moved along. Thus, a better solution was formulated. Instead of welding the arms together, they would be left independent and a center guide would be added onto the track to ensure that each side of the bogie wheel was being properly guided. This last final change was found to be completely satisfactory at eliminating the track throwing.

M6A1 front view showing the redesigned machine gun mount and drivers hatch opened. Note how clogged the grousers on the tracks are with mud. Photo:Pinterest

Engine Testing

The M6, as originally delivered, was designed to run on 87 octane fuel. Initial tests at Aberdeen in October 1942 showed that higher octane fuel (98 octane) fuel gave a peak value of 960 bhp at 2,300 rpm. In contrast, in the T1E1, 98 octane was found to produce only 775 bhp. It is unclear why, but it likely had to do with the engine and electric motors being governed. In light of this performance however, it was decided to test these vehicles on lower 80 octane fuel. This was likely desired because 98 octane was in high demand for aircraft. As it would turn out, 80 octane fuel is what the vehicles would use for the remainder of their service lives. The initial tests at Milford with 80 octane would see maximum horsepower drop to 615 hp at 2,180 rpm, with the estimated net horsepower being held down to 592 hp at 2,060 rpm due to the torque converter, with a stalled engine generating 445 hp at 1,620 rpm.

Cutaway of the T1E1, showing the large engine. Photo: Firepower

The Army was not happy with this result, and various modifications were tried to recover horsepower. They appear to have had some real success with this. While not clear what exact modifications were done, they were successful and got horsepower with 80 octane fuel back up to 800 hp at 2,300 rpm, this value also being what the vehicles were standardized to.

Further modifications at General Motors Proving Ground in May 1943 got the power back up to 935 hp, but it is not known if this was the new standard for all vehicles or just an experimental set of modifications, since engine development continued for some time, even after the tanks had been canceled.

The engine changes seem to have had issues during testing beyond decreasing horsepower. A 1944 report of troop experiences at Fort Knox mentioned that, due to a “carburation decrease”, it was necessary to increase the fuel pressure from 15 to 18 psi (103 to 124 kPa) up to 25 psi (172 kPa). There were also issues with the engine occasionally backfiring, causing air cleaner oil to be sprayed into the fighting compartment. This was fixed by installing a trap door on the clean air side of the air cleaner.

Fuel consumption of this engine was also found to be quite high, being observed as being as high as 9 gallons to the mile (34 liters to 1.6 km), which, with the tanks 477 gallon (1,805 liter) fuel tank, meant the range could be as short as 53 miles (85 km).

M6, M4, M5 in a line. Photo: Armored Force

90 mm Test Vehicle – T1E1 Heavy Tank with 90 mm T7

One of the more interesting areas of the testing done in the M6’s limited life was that of the 90 mm gun test vehicle. There were a few reasons for this, firstly to test if the gun itself was satisfactory, secondly to see if it was possible to fit the gun on tanks already fielding the 3-inch gun, and lastly, the 3-inch gun had been increasingly critiqued as inadequate for a heavy tank. Seeing this, Ordinance took the T1E1 pilot which had been delivered without armament and armed it with a 90 mm T7 gun. The resulting vehicle is sometimes known as T1E1 Heavy Tank with 90 mm T7.

T1E1 Pilot delivered without armament. Photo: Aberdeen

The 90 mm mounting kept the original 3-inch gun recoil system, with the minor change being new throttling groove sleeves to handle the higher recoil. In this configuration the turret, was found to be unbalanced. Despite this, the existing turret drive was workable though limited. The gun could be traversed up to a 20% (11°) slope, being able to do a 180° rotation in 23 seconds. At 30% (16.7°), however, the turret could not be traversed. Handwheel effort on a 20% slope was 65 lb. (29.4 kg). Firing tests were conducted, which showed the M6 as a stable gun platform, but as with the 3-inch gun, a complete turret redesign was needed to effectively use it. By the time this report was finalized and issued, the M6 had been canceled, and any future work was halted. The tank was moved around during the war in various parades and other events, most notably used as part of the Fifth War Loan Drive Parade in New York’s Central Park in 1944, where it was seen on display alongside a Tiger tank, operating and turning its turret for spectators, of which video footage exists today.

90 mm T7 gun. Photo: Watervliet
T1E1 with 90 mm gun installed. Photo: Aberdeen

Other Testing

Much work was also put into the disc brakes, specifically trying to ensure a uniform lifespan out of them. Manufacturing variations had meant the brake life was very variable. The goal was to get 2,000 miles (3,218 km) out of them. To this end, a new modification was carried out, increasing the thickness of the metal disk and decreasing the thickness of the linings. This showed success, with 1,400 miles (2,253 km) being run without difficulty. Unfortunately, any further difficulties or success with this modification are not known because the tank was canceled shortly after these reports.

One last proposed variant was the M6E1. Design work started in December 1943. This would have had a T26 turret mated to the M6 hull, with the hull being redesigned to facilitate the 90 mm rounds and the twin .50 caliber machine guns being replaced by a single .30 caliber machine gun. The M6E1 was canceled in March 1944, Whether this vehicle was built or not is unclear as no known photos or testing reports exist but Robert J. Icks claims it was built.


An additional test variant was the M6A2E1, originally envisioned as a dedicated assault tank for use in Europe. It was rejected, but the later T29 project resulted in the program being revived with a new proposal, not for an assault tank, but instead for 2 T1E1s to be modified with a wider turret ring to accept the larger T29 turret for testing of that turret and other components. This was accepted and the project was given the designation M6A2E1. The hull was largely unchanged, except for enlarging the turret ring and removing the bow gunner. On the other hand, the turret went through many design changes before being built, but the final design was a four man turret, featuring two loaders, a gunner and a commander. Armament was the T5E1 105 mm gun. The two tanks would go on to be extensively tested until 1946, providing useful information on the gun mounting and turret ergonomics, which would be incorporated into the T29 program.

M6A2E1 showing the long 105 mm gun and massive turret. Photo: Firepower


While there is isolated evidence, some M6s, especially the two M6A2E1s, might have been in limited test roles up to the early 1950s. In spite of this, the overwhelming majority were retired after the war ended. It is not clear exactly when, but at some point during the late 1940s or more likely the early to mid-1950s, all but one M6 were scrapped, the survivor being a T1E1. What is interesting about this tank is that if the serial number that is painted on it, W308956, is correct, this tank is the original T1E1 pilot and the 90 mm test bed vehicle. This vehicle was at the Aberdeen Museum for several decades, but was recently moved to the U.S. Army Armor and Cavalry collection at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Surviving T1E1 seen at Aberdeen in 2008 Photo: Chris Streckfus. Flickr
A selection of M6 tanks, most likely all of them manufactured, excluding the 2 M6A2E1s and 3 Pilot vehicles, at Rock Island Arsenal May 29th 1945. Photo: Rock Island Arsenal


Though its direct legacy was virtually nil, the dream of an operational heavy tank continued. The resulting T26 and later M26 was an entirely clean slate design and went through a protracted development period. Notwithstanding, the new suspension for the M6 would go on to be an important improvement onto the M4 late war. The prolonged suspension testing period would come back to have been very useful in allowing the M4 to quickly adopt this suspension without a long drawn out teething period. The M6 was also the first US tank to use a torque converter or Torqmatic transmission. Almost all future US tanks would use further iterations of this design. Further, the brake development on the M6 would prove useful in future brake designs, as well as valuable experience being gained from the M6’s electric drive.


The M6 was fundamentally a good design for when it was designed in 1940. However, by the time it saw production, the changing world situation and its numerous issues resulted in something that was somewhat lacking. The M6 ultimately got to serve as another wake up call to the US, alongside the M7, that avoiding feature creep and allowing proper testing periods were a must if a vehicle was to come to fruition.

It is probable that, had the M6 been able to go through a proper test period and not been rushed through to production, its flaws might have been ironed out and turned into something more like what the Army wanted and indeed a proper heavy tank. The issues with the tank, that being its lack of firepower, armor, and crew ergonomics, were fixable issues had the US had not been thrown into a war it was not fully prepared for. It is likely the M6 could have been refined and fixed into a design capable of taking on the likes of the Tiger I and Panther tanks, but as it was, the M6 did not receive these luxuries.

The M6 itself can be summed up as a flawed vehicle, but the experience from it being designed and produced gave valuable lessons that wound up preventing a repeat of the M6 with the next heavy tank, the M26.

M6. Illustration by Pavel ‘Carpaticus’ Alexe
M6A1. Illustration by Pavel ‘Carpaticus’ Alexe
T1A1 with 90mm gun. Illustration by Pavel ‘Carpaticus’ Alexe
M6A2E1. Illustration by Pavel ‘Carpaticus’ Alexe

Specifications: M6, M6A1, T1E1

Dimensions gun rearward 7.54 x 3.35 x 2.99 m (24′ 9” x 10′ 3” x 9′ 9.7”)
Total Weight loaded M6: 63.25 tons (57.37 tonnes)
M6A1: 63.15 tons (57.28 tonnes)
T1E1: 63.5 tons (57.6 tonnes)
Crew 6 (driver, commander, gunner, bow gunner, 2 loaders)
Propulsion Wright Radial G-200 9 cylinder petrol 800 hp
Maximum Speed 22-27 mph (35-43 km/h) (20 mph (32 km/h) on T1E1)
Range approximately 100 miles (161 km) on road
Armament Main: 76 mm M7, 37 mm M6.
Secondary: 2 x .30 cal Browning M1919A4, 3 x .50 cal Browning M2HB
Armor 1 (25 mm) to 4 (102 mm) inches
Production 8 M6,
12 M6A1,
20 T1E1


First report on Heavy Tank T1E2. US Ordnance Department
R.A.C Technical Situational Reports No 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 20
R.P. Hunnicutt, Firepower: A History of the American Heavy Tank, Presidio Press
Robert J. Icks, AFV Weapon Profiles No. 32: M6 Heavy and M26 Pershing
Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis, British and American Tanks of World War II, Arms and Armour Press
US Ordnance Minutes 15842. Heavy Tank- Initiation of development project for a tank to weigh approximately 50 tons. May 22nd, 1940.
TM 9-721. Heavy Tanks M6 and M6A1. February 5th, 1943
TM 11-630. Radio Set SCR-506-A. November 1944
TM 11-487A. Directory of Signal Corps Equipments Radio Communication Equipment. August 1950.
TM 9-1904 Ammunition Inspection Guide. March 2nd 1944
The Design, Development and Production of Tanks in World War II. Chief of Ordinance August 15th 1944
Heavy Tanks and Assault Vehicles. May 14th 1945
Record of Army Ordnance Research and Development. Tank Development, 1940-45.
OP 1664 “U.S. Explosive Ordinance” May 28th 1947

Cold War Yugoslav Armor Has Own Video


Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1956-1991)
Armored Personnel Carrier – 790 Built

During the late 1950s, the Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija (JNA, English: Yugoslavian People’s Army) became aware of the fact that its inventory lacked an armored personnel carrier (APC) able to effectively transport the supporting infantry of armored formations. In 1956, a project, initially known as M-590, began. Its development would lead to the creation of the first Yugoslavian APC, designated as M-60. Despite huge expectations, this vehicle would prove to be a rather poor and outdated design. While the whole project was problematic from the start, the M-60 would actually, to some extent, outlive its creator.

The first domestically developed and built Yugoslavian APC, the M-60. Source:

Need for an APC

The JNA, like many other modern armies in the world, was aware that, in order to fully exploit a tank offensive, they needed adequate infantry support. This concept was especially proven during the Second World War with the rapid German panzer division offensives, which were supported by mechanized infantry formations. They employed specially designed half-track vehicles to provide the necessary mobility for their infantry. Using a combination of tracks and wheels increased their mobility greatly. While effective in their role, these vehicles were not perfect, as they were too expensive to make.

After the war, thanks to technological advancements, it was possible to use fully-tracked vehicles that were relatively cheap and had good drive performance. These early designs followed the same concept of placing a simple box-shaped superstructure on a tracked chassis. These were lightly protected and had an armament that usually consisted of a few machine guns. US APCs, such as the M59, are probably the best-known designs of this era.

The M59 APC was designed to replace the older M75 APC. This particular vehicle would have a great influence on the later first domestically developed Yugoslav APC. Source:

Back in Europe, after the war, the JNA possessed some captured German half-tracks, which saw limited use. Given the lack of spare parts, their practical use beyond training and exercises was out of the question. As nothing else was available, JNA infantry units that were meant to support tank formations had to rely on trucks for transport. While trucks provided an increase in mobility, they simply could not keep up with tanks on rough terrain, which meant that the infantry could not follow up. In addition, the trucks themselves did not have any kind of armor protection, exposing the infantry to enemy fire. Thus, a need for a tracked and fully protected APC arose during the late 1950s. Inspiration for this project was more or less taken from the American M59 and M113 APCs. This may seem surprising at first, but at that time, despite being a Communist state, Yugoslavia had good political and military cooperation with the United States for some time.

At the end of 1956, representatives from all military branches that were interested in this project held a meeting to discuss the performance and characteristics that the new APC should have. The project was viewed as quite ambitious and many different solutions were proposed. For example, the infantry branch wanted a vehicle that could transport 20 soldiers and armed with either a 12.7 mm machine gun or a recoilless gun. Another proposal was that its chassis be reused for various self-propelled configurations armed with different caliber weapons, ranging from 40 to 105 mm. A tractor version with a capacity of 9 tonnes was also proposed. By April 1957, the final design was agreed upon. It was to be amphibious, the transport capacity was to include 10 soldiers, the armament should consist of one heavy machine gun, it would have a fully enclosed compartment, etc.

Troublesome Start

Initially, the project was designated as Object M-590. The first prototype was completed in 1958 and, the following year, it was used for various testing runs. While the overall design of the upper superstructure was influenced by the M59 APC, the hull and the suspension unit were taken from the obsolete SU-76M. Why the Yugoslavian engineers decided to reuse this outdated chassis is unknown. The JNA had in its inventory some 87 aging SU-76Ms, which were, at this point, obsolete and put into storage. Yugoslavian engineers had worked on several different domestic tank projects with limited success by this point. The decision to reuse the SU-76 chassis was possibly made in order to speed up development time, reusing components that were available. In either case, this decision would have huge long-term negative consequences for the whole project.

The JNA had some 87 aging SU-76Ms in its inventory. These were either purchased or received as gifts from the Soviet Union after the war. Even at that point, when the JNA had trouble finding sufficient modern armored vehicles, the SU-76M was seen as a completely inadequate vehicle and only remained in service until a proper replacement was found. Source: Magazine Arsenal 65/2012

Following the introduction of the first prototype, five more vehicles were to be completed by the end of 1960. Some 10 additional prototype vehicles were ordered, and these were to be completed by April 1961. Even before the testing trials were completed, the JNA officials tasked FAMOS, a vehicle manufacturer, with the first serial production order of 46 vehicles. These were to be completed by 1963. This order was further expanded by a yearly production quota of 50 vehicles during the period of 1964 to 1976. After that, the yearly production was to increase up to 100 vehicles. As it turns out, these plans were a bit overly ambitious given the fact that the whole project was, at that point, in an early stage of development.

More extensive testing of the prototypes was carried out from October to November 1960. During this period, three prototypes were used to cross a distance of 2,200 km. This trial showed the many deficiencies in the SU-76’s suspension. Torsion bar breakdowns were frequent and there were even cases of the road wheels’ rubber rims falling off. From January to February 1961, more tests were carried out on all six available prototypes. A shorter distance of 1,000 km was chosen for these trials. The M-590’s 140 hp engine showed to be too weak and prone to overheating. The clutch steering units proved to be ineffective, and the amphibious properties were inadequate, as the vehicle was difficult to control during river crossings. Despite all shortcomings, this project received a green light from the JNA officials.


In its early prototype stage, this project received the Oklopni transporter (English: Armored personnel carrier) M-590 designation. When the vehicle entered service with the JNA, the name was changed to M-60.

Futile Improvement Attempts

Following the completion of the first prototypes, it quickly became apparent that the new M-60 would need to receive extensive modifications before it was put into service. There was a fear that, even with these modifications, the M-60 would lose its amphibious properties, something which actually occurred with the newly built prototypes. To avoid this, it was proposed to increase the M-60’s overall size, but at the same time, reduce its weight. Other proposed changes included installing a stronger engine and using a better-quality transmission. Constant changes to the M-60’s overall design only led to confusion and delays in production. In addition, the Yugoslavian industry was unable to produce some necessary components, such as radios, night vision equipment, etc. This meant that some prototypes could not be fully equipped and, as a result, properly tested.

In April 1961, six more prototypes were delivered. These were given to the school teaching center for armored units. In the same year, an improved prototype was developed under the M-590-1 designation. It incorporated some modifications, such as an improved control system, using a dual differential, extending the vehicle by 17 cm, etc. In turn, these changes led to more problems than they solved. The M-590-1’s weight was increased from the original 9.5 to 10.7 tonnes, which greatly affected its overall drive performance, reducing the maximum speed from 45 km/h to 37 km/h. Once again, the amphibious properties were lost. The work on M-590-1 would be finally discontinued in 1963. By that point, a decision was made to focus solely on the regular M-60, despite its flaws. Due to M-60’s unsatisfactory performance by this point, another APC project was initiated As it would take years before it was ready, as a temporary solution, the M-60 was to be produced in a small series. In 1963 and 1964, a production of 60 M-60s was expected.

In the meantime, the production of the pre-series ran into serious delays. There were huge issues with the delivery of necessary armor plates. This was not the only problem, as many of these plates had to be discarded due to poor production quality. Bureaucratic delays and lack of technical documentation did not help either. While these were supposed to be built in 1962, they would not be delivered until 1964. Fearing that these problems would only lead to further delays in production, the JNA officials decided to go on with the manufacturing of the M-60 operational vehicles. At this point, the 0-series was not yet completed, let alone properly tested. Once again, the Yugoslav industry failed to deliver the promised vehicles. The Yugoslavian military industry could not provide the necessary parts, such as the armament and the radio equipment. Not surprisingly, the acquisition and production of the suspension caused additional delays. What is surprising is that the necessary parts of the relatively simple SU-76 suspension were difficult to reproduce. The newly delivered parts, such as the tracks or the road wheels, were often not interchangeable. To resolve this issue somewhat, spare parts for the suspension had to be imported from Hungary. Given the old age of the SU-76s and that it was no longer produced, the available spare parts imported from Hungary were probably of dubious quality.

The M-60, despite its simple appearance, proved difficult to produce, mostly due to the inadequately developed Yugoslav military industry. Source:

Testing the 0-series

The 30 0-series vehicles were finally ready for testing in 1964. Part of them was transported to Čapljine and Nevesinje for testing and evaluation, while some were given to FAMOS, where the serial production was expected to commence. A number of them were also allocated to the 329th Armored Brigade for troop trials. For the anticipated victory parade that was held in May, some of these vehicles were prepared to be used. During the preparation and rehearsals for the parade, a number of defects were discovered on these vehicles, such as broken water pumps and oil coolers.

The 329th Armored Brigade issued a report where the M-60’s overall performance was noted as being rather poor. A frequent complaint by this point was the weak engine. Overheating was a quite regular occurrence during M-60 driving. Accumulating mud on the suspension was another problem that could lead to track breakdowns. The machine gun was described as being difficult to use in a horizontal position, which sometimes led to the crew being injured during firing. The commander’s vision was limited when his hatch was closed, the transmission problems persisted, etc. The 329th Armored Brigade requested that all 12 vehicles that were in their inventory be moved to FAMOS for necessary modifications and improvements to be implemented. As FAMOS simply lacked production capacity, this could not be achieved.

M-60 Production

Despite the obvious flaws of the M-60, the JNA officials insisted that its production should commence as soon as possible. As has been seen before, there were numerous delays in the actual start of the production. The JNA placed a new order to FAMOS for the first series of 60 M-60s, which was to be completed by mid-December 1965. It was requested that the problems with the 0-series be resolved by the time of the M-60’s production, something to which the FAMOS officials agreed. Astonishingly, the JNA had plans to produce nearly 2,000 M-60 vehicles. This number was far from reality as, by 1967, when the production stopped, only 180 M-60s were built. The production of the latter M-60P and M-60PB would continue until 1979, by which time 790 vehicles were built in total. The production of these was carried out by FAMOS too.



The M-60 hull could be divided into a few different sections. These included: the front-mounted transmission, followed by the crew compartment, the centrally placed engine, and the rear-positioned passenger compartment.


The M-60 was powered by a FTR six-cylinder 140 hp @2,000 rpm diesel engine. On good roads, its consumption was 85 (D-2 diesel) liters of fuel and 0.85 liters of oil for a 100 km distance. Off-road driving increased consumption to 140 liters of fuel and 1.65 liters of oil over the same distance. Two fuel tanks (each with 185 liters) were placed to the rear, in the passenger compartment, and under the stationary seats. The engine itself was accessible from inside the vehicle and through a hatch located on top of the superstructure. The M-60 was equipped with the 5GFTR five-speed (and one reverse) transmission.
With a weight of 10.7 tonnes, the M-60 was capable of achieving a maximum speed of 43 km/h. This dropped to only 20 km/h off-road. The M-60 was quite a slow vehicle, as there were problems with the drive unit and engine overheating, additionally limiting its maximum drive speed. The maximum operational range was 400 km. It was capable of crossing a 2 m wide trench, and driving over vertical obstacles up to 0.6 m.

A drawing of the FTR six-cylinder engine. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje


Possibly to help reduce the development time, it was decided to reuse the obsolete SU-76M torsion bar suspension with some modifications. This included reducing the number of road wheels to five per side, changing the front drive sprocket, and using new tracks. The number of return rollers remained the same, with three per side. Two types of tracks were used, either a 350 mm wide one with 92 to 94 tack links or a slightly wider 400 mm one with 93 to 96 tack links While simple, this suspension proved prone to breakdowns, and acquiring spare parts was not always easy.

A good side view of the SU-76M’s torsion bar suspension. Source:
The M-60 employed the same suspension, with some changes. The most noticeable is the reduced number of road wheels and the addition of a new type of front drive sprocket. Source: Magazine Poligon 1/2017
It was common to see fenders added on top of the M-60’s suspension. Source: Magazine Poligon 1/2017


The M-60 was provided with a simple superstructure. The front consisted of two angled armor plates. A trim vane was connected to the lower plate. Given that the M-60 lost its amphibious properties at the prototype stage due to the added weight, this was quite pointless. This trim vane did not have any major purpose but was not removed. On the right upper side of this plate, a small machine gun port was placed. On the upper front plate, two hatches for the radio operator and the driver were placed. Each of these and the commander’s hatch were provided with an M-61 type periscope. Given the lack of a proper command cupola, the commander’s field of vision was quite limited when his hatch was closed. Between these two hatches were the night vision headlights. These were part of the IC type M63 night vision device.

On the front upper plate, two hatches were added to be used by the driver and, in this case, the radio operator. The M-60 had, in general, quite a limited field of view. Source:
Between the driver and radio operator hatches, the night vision headlights of the IC type M63 night vision device were positioned. Source:
Close-up view of the IC type M63 night vision device from JNA manuals. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje

The superstructure sides were also divided, with the lower plate being flat and the upper one slightly curved inward. In order to provide the commander and the gunner with more working space, the superstructure in these areas was extended outwards. There were no side vision ports, but the rear-positioned passengers could use six (three on each side) firing ports. To the rear, a large two-part hatch with two firing ports was located.

M-60 side view. Notice the three small firing ports to the rear. Interestingly, this was one of the 190 M-60s which were sold to Iraq. While basically the same, the only major differences were the replacement of the Browning machine gun mount with a new one designed to hold the Soviet 12.7 mm DShK and the different top hatches at the rear. Source:

The top armor was completely flat. To the left of the vehicle’s top was the commander’s hatch. On the opposite side, the mount for the heavy machine gun and the gunner’s hatch were placed. Between them was the ventilation hatch for the engine. To the rear part of the top, there were three additional round-shaped hatches. These were to be used by the passengers for either exiting the vehicle or, in cases of emergency, used to fire at aerial targets.

Rear view of the M-60’s superstructure. Notice the large two-part door that acted as the main entry point for the soldiers. Source:


The M-60 was lightly armored. The front armor plate was 15 mm thick. The upper angled plate, with the two hatches for the driver and the machine gunner, was only 9 mm thick. The flat sides were 13 mm thick, while the upper angled one was 10 mm thick. The rear armor was 10 mm thick.


Armament consisted of one 12.7 mm PAM (Protiv-avionski mitraljez – anti-aircraft machine gun) heavy machine gun (basically an M2 Browning) and one 7.92 mm M-53 (a copy of the German MG 42). The heavy machine gun was positioned on a mount providing 360º fire on the top right side of the superstructure. No protective gun shield was provided for its gunner. This heavy machine gun had sufficient firepower to engage unprotected targets (soft-skin vehicles, for example) up to 1 km. It also could be used to engage lightly protected targets up to 500 m. In order to avoid potentially injuring a crew member, a spent ammunition cartridge bag was attached to this machine gun. Given its large caliber, the gunner could choose between several different types of ammunition depending on the combat needs. These included the M2 standard round, M2 armor-piercing round, M8 armor-piercing incendiary round, M1 and M25 incendiary rounds, and lastly, M20 armor-piercing incendiary tracer round.

The 12.7 mm PAM gunner could traverse a full circle and engage low-flying targets. He was completely exposed to enemy fire. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje
The M-60 12.7 mm PAM operator could choose between several different types of ammunition. These included (from top to bottom): M2 standard round, M2 armor-piercing round, M8 armor-piercing incendiary round, M1 and M25 incendiary rounds, and M20 armor-piercing incendiary tracer round. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje

Secondary armament consisted of an M-53 machine gun. This was positioned on the lower right side of the superstructure. It was operated by a radio operator. The M-53 was to be used against infantry formations up to 1.5 km distance. If needed, it could be dismounted and placed on top of the M-60 to act as an auxiliary light anti-aircraft gun. In this configuration, aerial targets could be engaged at a distance of up to 1 km. The M-53 was fed by a 50-round drum magazine. Two types of rounds were used for this machine gun, consisting of a standard M-49 type round and a tracer round.

The M-53 was fired by the radio operator from inside the vehicle. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje

Besides these, the M-60’s firepower was further augmented by the personal weapons of the passengers. These initially included rifles and semi-automatic rifles, but would be replaced with submachine guns. In addition, at least two more M-53 machine guns were also carried by the dismounted unit. Some of these could be fired from the eight firing ports. The two extra M-53s were usually placed on each side of the vehicle.

An example of using one of the eight firing ports. This soldier is using a captured German MP 40 submachine gun. Source: Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje

Crew and Infantry Dismount

The crew of this vehicle could be divided into two groups. The first included the driver, who was positioned on the left side, and the radio operator placed on the other side of him. The radio equipment consisted of a R-113 and R-120 intercom radio set. It used a rod antenna located just right of the radio operator. In rarer cases, a 2.5-wire antenna could also be used. The radio had an effective range of up to 20 km when the vehicle was stationary. During movement, this was reduced to 1 to 2.5 km. The radio operator was also tasked with operating the hull-positioned machine gun. The driver was trained to act as a mechanic.

Behind them, the PAM heavy machine gun’s operator was placed on the right and opposite him was the commander position. If, for some reason, the commander was unable to perform his task (being injured or, in the worst-case scenario, killed), the heavy machine gun operator was to take charge of the vehicle.

The M-60 had a crew of four, all of which were located in the front part of the vehicle. Source: Magazine Poligon 1/2017

The passenger compartment was able to accommodate a squad of between 8 to 9 soldiers. While maintenance was the primary responsibility of the vehicle’s crews, the remaining passengers were tasked with providing necessary assistance during such operations, despite not always being trained to do so.

The M-60’s rear compartment had room for up to 9 fully armed soldiers. Source:

Modernizations and Versions

Further Improved: M-60P

Given the M-60’s poor performance, the JNA was unwilling to put more time and resources into this project. So, after the initial 180 vehicles were completed, production was stopped. The available vehicles were put into service. JNA commanders hoped that further APC development would lead to the quick introduction of a much-improved vehicle. Unfortunately for them, this did not materialize, and, at the start of the 1970s, most of the available M-60s were in a state of disrepair. As the production had been basically canceled, the availability of spare parts was limited. This was especially true for vital automotive components. Units that used them urged for the delivery of necessary parts and requested that a major overhaul be done on all available vehicles. The JNA was left with a dilemma about what to do next. The development of the new APC would not be completed for years to come but, on the other hand, the M-60 did not meet expectations and had many flaws. The dilemma, in truth, had only one solution and that was to somehow improve the overall characteristics of the M-60. The alternative was that the JNA would be forced to use trucks for transporting their mechanized infantry, which was deemed unacceptable.

Luckily for them, FAMOS was already working on a new steering (planetary/epicyclic gearing) system, which was tested in 1970. It was tested on one vehicle, which was designated as M-60P. The P stands for either Poboljšan (English: Improved) or Planetarni (English: Planetary). Before this change was implemented, the Uprava Oklopnih Jedinica (English: Armored Unit Administration) proposed that it should be examined and tested in detail on a few more prototypes. While the new steering unit proved promising, it was far from perfect and breakdowns were frequently reported. Given the great need for such vehicles and the lack of anything better, it was decided to upgrade all remaining (less than 180 vehicles, at that point) M-60s to the M-60P standard as soon as possible. Production of brand-new vehicles of the M-60P series began in 1973. Visually, these two vehicles were identical, as most modifications were mainly done regarding the steering unit.


Increasing firepower was another point that the Yugoslav engineers wanted to achieve. The heavy machine gun was enough to deal with lightly armored targets, but against better-protected vehicles, it could do little. It could also not offer explosive support against dug-in infantry or fortified positions. Of course, adding any larger armament was out of the question due to weight limitations. The easiest solution was simply to use two 82 mm M-60 recoilless guns. The project was initiated in 1972, with the completion of two prototypes. These were built using two modified M-60P vehicles. The main armament was placed on a specially designed mount. To house this mount, the rear part of the top part of the crew compartment was modified. While the main armament was retained, some structural changes were necessary. For example, the number of passengers was reduced to 7 (commander and six soldiers). The number of crew was not increased and included the driver, radio operator, 12.7 mm machine gun operator, and the recoilless gun operator. Technically speaking, the number of crew was reduced, as one of them had to take the role of the dismount’s commander.

By 1973, three such prototypes were used to test if the whole concept had any merit. Initial testing was carried out at the military training ground in Moljača. After these were successfully completed, the three vehicles were given to the 329th Armored Brigade for troop trials. Production was approved in 1973. Unfortunately, sources do not provide us with a precise number built of this version. Like its predecessors, this version was also built by FAMOS.

The M-60PB introduced increased firepower with two recoilless guns. Its installation necessitated some structural changes but, otherwise, the vehicle was the same as the M-60P. Source: Magazine Poligon 1/2017
The 82 mm M-60 recoilless gun was able to engage fortified positions up to 1.6 km distance and armored vehicles up to 1 km. It was capable of penetrating up to 400 mm of homogeneous armor. Source: Vojna tehnika i naoruzanje Jugoslavije i Srbije Facebook group

The superstructure was redesigned to only two rear top hatches. The left one was where the gun main was placed and was used by the gunner. Next to it was another hatch placed which was to be used during gun reloading. The two M-60 recoilless guns were placed on a simple mount, with the barrels placed on either side of the operator. This new armament installation was flawed in its design. The gunner had to completely expose himself during the aiming and firing of the two recoilless guns. The rate of fire was between 4 to 5 rounds per minute. The elevation angles were quite modest, with -4° to +6°. It was possibly restricted by the huge backlash created during the firing of these guns. While it technically had a full 360º firing angle, the position of the forward-mounted machine gun prevented this gun from firing in this direction. As the operator required extra working space, the rear part of the upper superstructure had to be redesigned. The gunner’s position was extended with a bulged armor plate, the same as done with the forward gunner and the commander’s positions. In addition, the installation of this position led to the deletion of the last firing port. The added firepower was seen as an improvement and thus it was adopted for service as the M-60PB, with the B standing either for Bestrzajni (English: Recoilless) or Bojni (English: Combat), depending on the source.

There is an unconfirmed story that Josip Broz Tito himself proposed that such a version be developed. Allegedly, during the inspection of armored vehicles used during the Sloboda 71 military exercise, he came across the M-60P. After inspecting it, Tito was satisfied with this vehicle but asked that it should have anti-tank weapons.

Adding two recoilless guns increased the offensive capabilities of the M-60PB. The overall design was poorly carried out, providing no protection for the gunner. Source:
In order to find targets and fire the two guns, the gun operator had to expose himself to potential enemy fire. Source:
The new gun installation required some work on the upper superstructure. The rear-firing port had to be removed and an enlarged gun operator compartment had to be added instead. It extended beyond the upper superstructure armor. Source:


Another version that was introduced into service was a command version equipped with additional radio equipment (R-123 and R-112) designated as M-60PK – Komandni (English Command). No production number for these versions is given, but it is likely that, depending on the need, ordinary vehicles were converted for this role.

Other Proposals and Projects

There were also numerous additional proposals for M-60 design improvements, such as using new tracks, removing the trim vane, new handles for the hatches, adding an 82 mm mortar or a 2 cm cannon, etc,. All these implemented or proposed modifications were a mixed bag. All the new changes extended the M-60’s operational service life, but on the other hand, the overall performance was still poor. Adding new modifications led only to a rise in production and maintenance costs without offering any major advantage over the basic version, so many of these would not be introduced.

At least one vehicle was tested with an 80 mm mortar being installed inside the passenger compartment. As no production order was given for it, is it possible that the whole design was impractical or overly complicated. Source:

There were also a few proposed versions, such as ammunition transport or medical versions, but these remained at the prototype stage.

The M-60 was a poorly designed vehicle, but given that nothing else was available, it was kept in production. Source:


In Use with the JNA

The first few produced M-60 prototypes were presented to the Yugoslav public in 1962, during a May military parade held in the capital, Belgrade. The first 80 production vehicles were distributed to the following units:

Unit – Armored Brigade Quantities
1st 10
203rd 20
221st 10
243rd 30
252nd 10

After only two years in service, two M-60s had to be written off. In the following years, the M-60s were used in various military parades and exercises. The poor mechanical reliability and lack of spare parts greatly affected their performance. For example, during the military exercise Pčinja 72 (in 1972), of 30 vehicles from the 243rd Armored Brigade, 14 broke down due to problems with the running gear. The later version M-60P proved to be less unreliable, but far from a perfect solution.

The M-60 was shown to the general public in 1962 during a May military parade held in Belgrade. After that, it was a common sight. Source:

Just before the outbreak of the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s, the JNA had in its inventory 551 M-60P and PBs. The JNA had planned just before the war to reduce this number to around 398 M-60s, but this never occurred. During its use by the JNA, the M-60 received the mocking nickname Peglica (English: An iron), a Yugoslavian name often also given to the small FIAT 126 car.

Given that nothing better was available, the M-60 was extensively used by the JNA during army exercises and training. Source:

The M-60 was to be replaced with a much more advanced M-80 APC. The M-80 was larger, was better armed and protected, and most importantly had an engine that was mechanically reliable. The later APC was introduced to service in 1976 but was not produced in sufficient numbers to fully replace the obsolete M-60.

The M-80 was designed as the M-60 replacement but due to insufficient production numbers, it never achieved this. Source:

In The Yugoslav Police Service

In 1975, some M-60s were allocated to Yugoslav Police units, with the Army providing the necessary training. In contrast to those used by the JNA, the Police M-60s were completely painted in blue. At least 21 M-60s remained in use with the Serbian police forces in the cities of Kraljevo and Niš up to 2004.

The M-60s used by the police forces were easily recognizable thanks to their blue camouflage color. Source:

The Yugoslav Civil Wars

The political and economical crisis of the late 1980s, together with ever-rising nationalism in all federal entities in Yugoslavia, would ultimately lead to a bloody and costly civil war. These events are still politically and historically controversial, especially in the countries of the former Yugoslavia. The reasons why it started, who started it, when, and even its name are still ferociously debated to this day. Unfortunately, the war was accompanied by great suffering and crimes committed by all warring parties.

The outbreak of the Yugoslavian Civil war was chaotic in nature. Various paramilitary forces began to appear in the western part of Yugoslavia, especially in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The JNA initially tried to subdue these, but various factors (desertions, chaotic organization, poor morale, and rushed decisions) lead to unnecessary losses in men and material.

One of the first combat usages of the M-60 happened on 2nd July 1991 in Slovenia. On that day, elements of a JNA armored column clashed with Slovenian forces near Prilep. At least four M-60s were reported damaged.

In 1992, the JNA initiated a general evacuation of its personnel and equipment to Serbia. Many of its vehicles had to be left behind, and they were often captured and reused by the various military and paramilitary organizations which were present in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. After this point, the M-60 saw service with all warring parties in various roles. When used in direct combat, the M-60 generally performed poorly due to its weak armor. The use of portable anti-tank weapons (often imported despite the military embargo placed on Yugoslavia) was quite common, so armored vehicle losses were rather high during the war. A lightly protected M-60 stood little chance of survival when engaged with modern anti-tank weapons.

This was the fate of many M-60s which, because of their weak protection, fell victim to various anti-armor weapons. Source:
A M-60PB operated by Croatian forces during the war. Source:

As the direct use of the M-60 in combat was rather dangerous, many were converted to perform various other roles. These included modifying the interior so that they could be reused as transport or medical vehicles. Croatian forces modified a few M-60s by extending their rear crew compartment, creating mobile ambulances for evacuating wounded soldiers and civilians. Other than that, some M-60s received various weapon upgrades. One such vehicle received an aircraft rocket pod, intended to be used as an improvised artillery support vehicle.

Croatian forces modified some M-60s as ambulance vehicles. These received extended rear parts of the crew compartment to make additional rooms for the wounded. Source:
This surviving M-60 received a 57 mm rocket pod mounted on top of it. If it was effective or even practical is anyone’s guess. Source:
The crew of this vehicle added one more machine gun point on top of the crew compartment. They also added a protective shield for this machine gun. Source:
Another bizarre M-60 modification had two light anti-aircraft guns in an improvised turret. Source:
This picture well describes the chaotic nature of the Yugoslav Wars. Many paramilitary formations took up arms, either with the real belief that they are fighting for liberation, as ad hoc defense militias, or simply to murder and plunder. Many of these combatants did not even have any uniforms. Source:

After the War

After the war, nearly all warring sides during this conflict had in their inventory some M-60s. Given the agreement of disarmament signed after the war, many armored vehicles were sent to be scrapped, as they were obsolete, or worn out. This was the fate of the M-60, many of which were scrapped.

Despite their obsolescence, the new Savezna Republika Jugoslavija (English: Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) Army had over 120 M-60s in its inventory. Given their obsolescence, it was decided to, if possible, sell these vehicles abroad and, if not, scrap them. The 1996 Agreement on Sub-Regional Arms Control, part of the Dayton Accords, actually offered this possibility. They were presented to various East European countries but no agreement was made. In 2004, it was proposed to donate some of them to the new Iraqi government, but nothing came from this. Eventually, they were mostly scrapped.

Other Users

In Iraqi Service

In 1975, Iraqi leader Sadam Husein visited Yugoslavia. This visit had the goal to establish political as well as potential military cooperation. It succeeded in this, as the following year, Josip Broz Tito visited Iraq. Several agreements for military cooperation were signed including the construction of secret and well-dug-in underground facilities. This agreement also included the shipment of weapons. Surprisingly, despite its poor design, Yugoslavia managed to sell 190 M-60s to the Iraqi Army. The Iraqi forces used a 12.7 mm Soviet DSK heavy machine gun instead of the original Browning. They saw action during the long Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. The M-60 was noted to be an almost unusable vehicle, being poorly protected and susceptible to engine overheating. There is an alleged story that, when the Yugoslavian delegation asked the Iraqi about the M-60’s performance, the Iraqis responded with “If you want us to remain friends, better not ask us”.

The M-60 was operated by the Iraqi forces. Note the last road wheel is replaced by a much smaller wheel for some reason. Source:

In the Role of a “German Tank”

In Yugoslavia, World War Two-themed movies and TV shows were quite popular. The JNA often provided necessary props, such as uniforms, weapons, volunteers, and sometimes even tanks. For the filming of the TV show Nepokoreni Grad (English: Unconquered City) in 1981, an M-60 was modified by receiving a fake (possibly even a real) Panzer III turret.

An interesting adaptation of an M-60 into a German Panzer III tank. Source:

Surviving Vehicles

Today, there are a dozen or so surviving M-60s spread around the former Yugoslavia. While most are stored or put on exhibit, some are in working condition, modified to be used for various civilian or military purposes.

A M-60PB that was preserved at the Bosnian Manjač training ground. Source:
M-60 at the Croatian Vukowar War Museum. Source: Wiki


The M-60’s development was plagued from the start by miscalculations, poor decision-making, and bad mechanical solutions, such as using a weak engine, light armor, etc. Adopting the obsolete SU-76’s suspension caused huge logistical problems, as this vehicle was long out of production, thus making the acquisition of spare parts difficult. Adding weight beyond the initial calculations made the M-60 lose its amphibious characteristics, which limited its combat effectiveness. Frequent changes to the design lead to delays in production. Using a weak engine limited the overall speed and was prone to overheating. The armor proved almost to be useless when it was used in combat.

In essence, the M-60 can be considered a failed project that did not live up to meet the expectations that were required of it. Probably the only positive thing that could be said about this vehicle is that it provided Yugoslav engineers with experience in designing such a vehicle, which would lead to the creation of a much better design, the M-80. It also served to give the troops a vehicle that was at least better than ordinary trucks used up to that point.

Basic M-60 APC
M-60PB with two 82 mm M-60 recoilless guns
Yugoslav police M-60
M-60 as seen at the Croatian Vukowar War Museum
Iraqi M-60PB
M-60 disguised as a Panzer III for the TV show Nepokoreni Grad

M-60 Specification

Size (L-W-H) 5 x 2.7 x 1.86 m
Weight, battle-ready 10.7 tonnes
Crew 4 (Driver, commander, radio operator, and gunner)
Engine FAP six-cylinder 140 hp @2,000 rpm diesel engine
Speed/off-road 40 km/h, 20 km/h
Range/off-road 400 km, 250 km
Primary Armament one 12.7 mm PAM heavy machine gun
Secondary Armament One 7.62 M-56 machine gun
Armor up to 15 mm


Držani Sekretarijat za Narodnu Odbranu (1970) Oklopni Transporter M-60 Priručnik Za Motomehanizovano Odeljenje, Vojna Štamparija Beograd
B. B. Dumitrijević (2010), Modernizacija i Intervencija, Jugoslovenske Oklopne Jedinice 1945-2006, Institut za Savremenu Istoriju
M. Dragojević (2003) Razvoj Našeg neoružanja VTI kao sudbina, Zadužbina Adrijević
Magazine Poligon 1/2017
M. Jandrić, Seventh Decade of the Military Technical Institute (1948–2013)

Has Own Video WW2 Yugoslav Partisan Armor of Western Origin

Light Tank M3A3 with the 7.5 cm PaK 40

Yugoslavian Partisans (1944/45)
Improvised Self-Propelled Anti-Tank Gun – 1 To 5 Converted

During the war, the Yugoslavian communist Partisans were often faced with shortages of war materiel, especially in regard to anti-tank weapons and tanks. Luckily for them, after 1943, the Western Allies decided to send large quantities of all kinds of war material, including M3A1/A3 light tanks. While these tanks were a welcome addition in the Partisan’s fight for the liberation of occupied Yugoslavia, their guns were not up to the date and lacked serious firepower. By the end of 1944, the Partisans simply decided to resolve this issue by mounting a captured German 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun on a few M3A3 tanks. While not perfect, these at least gave them a much needed increase in firepower, effectively being a weapon that could destroy any vehicle on this front.

The modified M3A3 armed with the 7.5 cm PaK 40 in Partisan service.

The M3 light tanks in the Balkans 

Following the quick conquest of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia during the April War (that lasted from 6th to 18th April 1941), its territories were divided between the victorious Axis forces. Due to the harsh and brutal occupation by the Axis troops stationed in Yugoslavia, by the second half of 1941, two resistance groups started a rebellion against the occupiers. These were the Royalist Chetniks and Communist Partisans. Although, at the beginning these two groups worked together in the fight against the occupying Axis forces, a conflict between these two forces in late 1941 would break out into an open civil war. This lasted until the end of the war and the victory of the Partisans.

By the end of 1943 and start of 1944, the Communist Partisans movements were heavily involved in organising a number of attacks on German and their allies vital communication and supply lines, military bases and airfields, and other targets , inflicting increasing losses in men and materials. While, initially, the Western Allies mainly supported the Chetnik movement, due to various reasons (including a lack of major military action against the Germans or even open cooperation with them), this attitude changed drastically from 1943 onwards. The Allies instead focus on supporting the ever increasing Partisan movement by supplying them with ammunition and equipment but also special personnel to help train the Partisan ground forces.

Beside these, Allied High Command made an agreement with the leader of the Partisans, Josip Broz Tito, to form a tank brigade that was to be equipped with Allied tanks and armored cars. The unit, named First Tank Brigade, would be formed on 16th July 1944. The British supplied some 56 M3A1/A3 tanks, 24 AEC Mk.II armored cars and two M3A1 scout cars. The Partisan crews were previously sent to Italy in order to be trained in operating these vehicles. They also managed to salvage a few more damaged tanks from Allies repair facilities.

A Partisan M3A3, easily recognized due to the large Yugoslav flag (with the added Red star) usually painted on the tank’s sides. Source: Wiki

The First Tank Brigade would see extensive action against the Germans and their allies until the end of the war in May 1945. Due to a high attrition rate, a great number of  M3A1/A3 tanks were either lost or heavily damaged. Given the general lack of replacements, these had to be repaired in order to keep the whole unit operational. Some damaged vehicles had their turrets removed and replaced with captured weapons. One such modification included installing a captured 7.5 cm PaK 40 on top of an M3A3 tank, creating a bizarre vehicle somewhat similar to the German Marder tank hunter series.

The M3 Light Tank

The M3 Light Tank was designed in 1940 to replace the older and outdated M2 tanks that were in service with the American armored forces. The M3 had many improvements over the M2, including thicker armor, stronger (due to the increase in weight) vertical volute spring suspension (VVSS) with a bigger rear idler wheel, increased speed, and improved firepower consisting of four 7.62 mm machine guns and a 3.7 cm cannon. The first series was powered by the gasoline-fueled (petrol) Continental seven-cylinder four-cycle radial aircraft engine. After 1942, a new four-stroke diesel radial Guiberson A-1020 engine was used. It had a crew of four (driver, driver assistant, gunner, and commander). From March 1941 to August 1942, some 5,811 Stuarts with petrol engines and 1,285 with diesel engines were built. The much improved M3A1 version was produced from April 1942 onwards. The first batches of M3A1 tanks were built by using riveted armor, but later models had welded armor. The changes that were made were an improved turret design (the small commander cupola was removed) with two hatch doors, reducing the number of machine guns to three on later built vehicles, and the addition of a turret basket.

Soon after the M3A1, a new model, the M3A3, was made as a result of the poorly designed frontal armor and small fuel capacity of the first versions. The front and side armor of the Stuart M3A3 were angled and the front hatches for the driver and his assistant were replaced by new overhead ones. Due to extra space that the Stuart M3A3 now had, it was possible to increase the fuel capacity. This version was produced until August 1943, with a total of some 3,427 vehicles being built.

The M3A3 light tank.

The Stuart series saw extensive operational service throughout the war on many different fronts. The USA supplied the Stuart series to other nations through Lend-Lease, including the British Empire, USSR, Brazil, China, France, the Netherlands, and many other Latin American nations. Britain would subsequently give some of their Stuarts to the Yugoslav Partisans. By 1943, however, the M3 was already outdated, due to its weak gun and feeble armor.

Repair Facilities at Šibenik

The Partisan First Tank Brigade, after some heavy fighting with the Germans, managed to push them out of the city of Šibenik (located on the Adriatic coast of modern Croatia), which was captured on 3rd November 1944. Prior to the war, Šibenik had been a large naval shipyard and possessed a number of workshops. Despite many of them being sabotaged by the retreating Germans, there was still sufficient working equipment and materials left to meet the needs of the Partisan mechanics, who were somewhat in great need of such tools. Namely, the fighting with the Germans had led to heavy tank losses. As there was no way to replenish lost tanks, the Partisans were forced to try to salvage and repair damaged vehicles. Even those that were damaged beyond repair were reused for spare parts. Enemy vehicles and equipment captured by that time were also transported to Šibenik in hope of repairing them or, if this was not possible, to be cannibalized for spare parts. Šibenik would remain the Partisans’ main base for repairs and maintenance until the end of the war. In addition, it also served as a vital training ground for new Partisan tank crews from November 1944 onwards. The Partisan repair work was actually supervised and assisted by British Major Peterson supported by an unnamed Sergeant.

Modification of the M3A3  

While the Partisans were surely grateful to the Allies for the Stuart tanks, they were, to say the least, quite disappointed with their firepower. The Stuart was armed with a 37 mm gun which was quite inadequate for anti-tank duties in 1944/45. While the enemy tanks which operated in Yugoslavia were mostly obsolete French and Italian tanks, a number of them were more modern (Panzer III, Panzer IV, StuG III, or even captured T-34s), against which the 37 mm gun could do little. Another issue with the Stuart’s gun was that it was noted to be generally ineffective against well fortified enemy positions. The Partisans, to some extent, resolved these issues by utilizing the AEC Mk. II (due to its better firepower, the 6 pounder – 5.7 cm gun) as anti-tank vehicles. This, in turn, led to another problem. The armored cars, which were intended to perform reconnaissance, were instead reused for the anti-tank role. This forced the Partisans to use ordinary infantry for reconnaissance, which was not always effective or even reliable and often led to great losses.

Rearming the already existing tanks seemed one possible solution. One attempt was arming a Somua S35 with a 5.7 cm gun placed in a modified turret. This vehicle was lost on its first combat missions and appears to have been quite ineffective in design. Given the general improvised nature, this should not come as a big surprise

The main anti-tank firepower of the First Tank Brigade came from the AEC Mk. II armored cars. Their 5.7 cm guns were more suited for this role than the weaker 37 mm ones of the M3 light tanks. Source:

By the end of 1944, at ‘La Dalmatien’ workshop in Šibenik, a number of Stuarts with damaged turrets that were probably beyond repair were present. A decision was made by the Partisan authorities stationed in Šibenik to try and install a number of German captured weapons in hope of increasing their combat effectiveness. While a number of sources claim that four different such modifications were made, based on the information and evidence available, only two of these can actually be confirmed. At least one was armed with a German 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun and a second vehicle was armed with the 20 mm Flak 38 Flakvierling anti-aircraft gun.

General information about these two vehicles are scarce and difficult to find, mainly as the Partisans kept a poor record of them. What is known is that these were likely hasty improvisations with little to no testing done prior to their completion. The work on these modifications began sometime at the end of 1944 and was completed by early 1945.

A M3A3 in process of being rearmed with a PaK 40, at Šibenik 1944/45.Source:


Sadly, there are no available sources that mention the precise names of these vehicles. It is also unknown if the Partisans ever actually bothered to give them any designation or even a nickname. Sometimes, it is simply referred to as the M3A3 with 7.5 cm PaK 40. This article will use the simple PaK Stuart designation for the sake of simplicity only. It is important to note that this is purely a modern designation.

The Modifications

For this modification, damaged Stuarts M3A3s were used (as they were present in greater numbers). Instead of the original tank turret, a simple three-sided shield and a 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun were placed. This is where the sources effectively stop describing the overall PaK Stuart design. More information can be obtained based on  analysis of available photographs and educated guesses.

The Gun Mount

The general decision to use the 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun can be explained simply by the fact that it was the best anti-tank weapon in Yugoslavia. Also, the Partisans captured a number of these guns, so they used what they had.

Precisely how the Partisans mounted the 7.5 cm anti-tank gun is unknown. Given the general urgent need for a vehicle with increased firepower and in order to reduce the overall construction time needed, the Partisans would most likely have gone for the simplest working solution. One possible solution is that the Partisans first install a reinforced (likely using metal bars) base, on which they mounted the gun with its cradle mount. In order to save weight and space, the 7.5 cm PaK 40 wheels and trailing legs were removed. The gun would be placed on the previously mentioned base and held in place either by being welded in place or by bolts. Thus, the gun’s original elevation (-5° to +22°) and traverse (65°) would likely remain the same. While no front gun travel lock was installed, there is a photograph of such a vehicle being under construction with what appears to be a rear positioned travel lock. This had a simple design, using two bars in a reverse ‘V’-shape. On the other hand, given the lack of a better view of this position, the part believed to be a V-shaped travel lock could also be (at least in this case) a simple tool that was used during the mounting of the gun. Either way, the use of a travel lock on a long gun like the PaK 40 was quite essential. For example, driving over rough terrain without one could potentially damage the gun mount or even affect its overall precision.


A side view of the PaK Stuart under construction. The reverse ‘V’-shape of what is possibly a travel lock is evident here. On the other hand it may also be an improvised tool used to help instal the gun. Source: /

The added gun, armor plates and ammunition certainly raised the vehicle’s overall weight, but to what extent is unknown. It is also unknown how the whole modification affected the M3A3’s overall driving performance.

A PaK Stuart being under construction at the Šibenik workshop. Source: Od Tenka Do Brigade 1941-1945


This vehicle was armed with the excellent 7.5cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun. It was more than well suited to successfully engage any tank in the Yugoslav theatre of operation until the end of the war. Beside installing this gun onto the Stuart tank, the Partisans would also face problems with where to store the relatively large PaK 40 ammunition. While the sources do not provide us with an explanation, there are quite few solutions to this issue. One possible solution is that the Partisan crews stored spare ammunition inside the vehicle. Given the small size of the vehicle, only a limited amount of ammunition could be stored this way. How these would be given to the gun crews is questionable. If the new gun mount installation left no opening for the ammunition to be taken from inside the tank, the driver or his assistant had to provide them. This would leave them open to enemy fire and this was, in general, quite an ineffective method.

Another solution was that spare ammunition was stored in the fighting compartment and in easy reach of the gun crews. Due to the small size of this fighting compartment, only a few spare rounds could be carried. The last solution may be that the vehicle was used to engage targets at greater ranges and the ammunition was instead carried by another vehicle (likely an ammunition supply truck). Given the general lack of information about such a vehicle, this seems unlikely but not impossible.

The general lack of space on top of the Stuart tank is clear. While spare ammunition could be carried in this part of the vehicle, it is difficult to tell as no visible spare rounds can be seen in this photograph. The side armor plates barely cover the gun, let alone the crew, providing them with limited overall protection. Source:
This top view of the M3A3 offers a good idea of how the fighting compartment would be cramped and difficult to work in. Source:

The secondary armament consisted of the original hull mounted Browning 7.62 mm machine gun. Interestingly, some vehicles appear to lack the hull positioned machine gun. The reason for this is unknown, but possibly done to make more room inside the vehicle, or they were simply removed for maintenance or ammunition reasons. On some photographs, a second Browning machine gun can be seen placed on top of the gun shield or behind it, but the photographs are not clear enough.

The second machine gun mounted on top of this vehicle is visible. While no explanation for this installation is provided in the sources, a simple answer would be that, this way, the machine gunner had a better firing arc and view (albeit with the sacrifice of protection). The use in the anti-aircraft role seems unlikely as, by 1945, German aircraft on this front were rare at best. Source:

Armor Protection 

The armor protection of this vehicle (with the exception of the original Stuart hull) is unknown. The gun keeped its own twin layer gun shield (each plate was 4 mm thick with 25 mm of free space between them). On both sides of the vehicle’s new fighting compartment, there were simple angled armored plates. These were made from salvaged German vehicles that were too damaged to be repaired. Interestingly, on the rear bottom of the side armor plates, there are what appear to be small hatches that had no obvious reason to be there. One possible solution is that this was actually part of the original salvage metal plates that the Partisans did not bother to remove.

The unusual small hatch that could be seen on the PaK Stuart’s sides. If this was present on the other side or even on all vehicles is unknown. Source: www.srpskioklop.paluba.infol

To fill the gap between the gun and the hull, an armored plate was added. The top and the back of this fighting compartment were completely open, exposing the crew to the elements and enemy fire. In principle, the armor of the upper modified gun platform at best offered only limited protection for its crew, mostly from small caliber bullets and shrapnel.

Crew Hatches

While the Stuart turret was removed, the rest of the vehicle appears to have been unchanged.  On the Flak armed Stuart version, the two hull hatches were redesigned to be opened forwards. This was done to provide a better firing angle for the main weapon. On the PaK armed version, this was not the case. Given the fact that the gun itself was higher up, there was still plenty of room to use the hatches in their original configuration.

The Flak armed Stuarts had their front crew hatches modified to be opened forwards only. Source:
The PaK armed version did not receive this modification, as it was not needed. The gun was sufficiently high up that these could be opened with any problem. Also note the large plate that is placed in front of the gun. Source:


While there is no certain information, the crew of this vehicle likely consisted of four. These include a driver and an assistant, who was also the machine gun operator, which were located in the hull. The gun loader, who was probably the commander, and the gunner were positioned in the small open fighting compartment. While the hull crew were fully protected, the gun operators were completely exposed to weather and had only limited protection from enemy fire.

The PaK Suart most likely had four crew members, as there was barely any room left after the gun was added. Source

Number Built

The number of PaK Stuarts built is unknown. It is generally believed that at least three vehicles were constructed. One such source is the book written by authors B. B. Dimitrijević and D. Savić (Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu 1941-1945). Various internet websites mention a number of 5, which seems to be unlikely. What is particularly strange is that this conversion always appears alone in contemporary photographs, so it is possible that only a single vehicle conversion was ever carried out.

On this photograph (but also on many more), only a single PaK Stuart is depicted. This may indicate that only one vehicle was actually constructed, but that by itself is no definitive proof. Source:

Author D. Predoević (Armored Units and Vehicles in Croatia during WWII, Part I, Allied Armored Vehicles) also agrees that three vehicles were modified in this manner. He also gives an explanation about the production number mystery. He claims that, in Partisan documents regarding the 4th Army (dated from April 1945), they mentioned the use of four Stuart self-propelled guns. These, in fact, were Howitzer Motor Carriage M8s armed with the 75 mm howitzer developed and built by the Americans. Between 7 and 9 such vehicles were supplied to the Partisans during April 1945. These vehicles may be the main culprits for the overall confusion about the precise number of PaK Stuarts built. The same caliber being present on both vehicles may have led to some sources wrongly describing them as the anti-tank vehicles developed by the Partisans.

Small numbers of the M8 were supplied by the Allies to the Partisans in April 1945. Source: www.srpskioklop.paluba.inf

In Combat

Once the PaK Stuarts were ready, during early 1945, they were initially used for training the crews in order to effectively operate these modified vehicles. During late March, these vehicles were dispatched to the front line and saw action against the Germans until the end of war.

Before any combat actions were undertaken, it was necessary to familiarize and train the crews to effectively operate this unusual vehicle. This picture was taken in early 1945 behind the front line. It and the AEC Mk. II were the main anti-tank weapons (excluding the towed guns) operated by the First Tank Brigade. Source:

There is little information on the usage in action and losses of the Partisan Stuart PaK version. What is known from contemporary photographic evidence is that they were used in combat. There are only a few documented actions in which these tanks were used. The modified PaK Stuart vehicle (or vehicles) were used in battles near cities like Mostar, Bihać, and Drenovača during February/March 1945. Besides a few photographs, their precise usage during these battles is unknown.

A column of Stuart tanks, including a PaK Stuart, of the First Tank Brigade near the city of Mostar in February 1945. Source: Armored Units and Vehicles in Croatia during WWII, Part I, Allied Armored Vehicles
The PaK Stuart firing at designated targets near the city of Bihać. Source:

At the end of April, they were engaged in heavy fighting with the Germans near Ilirska Bistrica. On 28th April 1945, the Germans, supported by captured T-34s and vehicles described as ‘Panthers’ managed to push back the Partisans. While the precise vehicle types used are unknown (as no real Panther were used in Yugoslavia during the war), it is possible that these were in fact StuG IIIs. The Partisans made a counter-attack and pushed the Germans back. During this offensive, during a short engagement, a modified Stuart managed to destroy a German T-34 tank. While its general performance is unknown due to a lack of information, what is known is that the gun recoil during firing would cause the whole vehicle to be pushed back several meters. Firing of the gun probably also put enormous stress on the M3A3 chassis. The modified Stuarts (the PaK and Flak versions) participated in the liberation of Trieste near the end of the war, in May 1945.

Rear view of a Partisan armored column, with the PaK Stuart between two AEC armored cars. Source: Author D. Predoević (Armored Units and Vehicles in Croatia during WWII, Part I, Allied Armored Vehicles)


Both vehicles survived the war and were pressed into service with the new Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija (JNA) (Eng. Yugoslav People’s Army). These two vehicles may have also seen service during the 1946-47 Trieste crisis. While they remained in JNA inventory for a few more years, their final fate is unfortunately unknown.

The PaK Stuarts did survive the war and were even in use for a few more years. This vehicle was used in a military parade held in Belgrade in 1946. Source: B. Dimitrijević Cominform Crisis Soviet-Yugoslav Stand Off 1948-1954


The M3A3 armed with the 7.5 cm anti-tank gun was a Partisan attempt to quickly build a vehicle capable of effectively destroying any enemy target. While in this they succeeded, the overall performance of the vehicle was most likely quite disappointing. While its new gun gave it huge firepower, it was also its Achilles’ heel. The gun’s tremendous recoil during firing was simply too much for the small Stuart. The small and poorly protected fighting compartment was also a huge issue. The small ammunition load would also limit its effectiveness in prolonged combat missions. While the Partisans managed to destroy a number of enemy tanks with it, this modified M3A3 was simply a hastily improvisation using any available resources at hand. Despite its somewhat poor design, it certainly served as a reminder of the harsh battles fought in Yugoslavia and the ingenuity of the Partisans fighting there.

Yugoslav Resistance Light Tank M3A3 with the 7.5 cm PaK 40 illustrated by David Bocquelet



Crew 4 (Gunner/ commander, loader, driver and driver assistance)
Propulsion Continental 7 cylinder petrol
250 hp – air cooled
Speed 58 km/h (36 mph) road
29 km/h (18 mph) off-road
Range 120 km at medium speed (74.5 mi)
Armament 7.5 cm PaK 40 Anti-Tank Gun
Armor From 13 to 51 mm (0.52-2 in)



  • B. B. Dimitrijević, (2011) Borna kola Jugoslovenske vojske 1918-1941, Institut za savremenu istoriju.
  • B. B. Dimitrijević and D. Savić (2011) Oklopne jedinice na Jugoslovenskom ratištu 1941-1945, Institut za savremenu istoriju, Beograd.
  • D. Predoević (2008) Oklopna vozila i oklopne postrojbe u drugom svjetskom ratu u Hrvatskoj, Digital Point Tiskara
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