Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Panzer IV/70 (A)

Nazi Germany (1944)
Tank Destroyer – 278 Built

The Panzer IV/70 (A) was born from earlier German attempts to place the 7.5 cm L/70 into a Panzer IV turret. As this was not possible, another solution was proposed by the firm of Alkett. Their design simply reused a modified Vomag Panzer IV/70 (V) superstructure (armed with the 7.5 cm L/70 gun) and placed it on a standard Panzer IV tank chassis. The result was a much taller and heavier vehicle than the Panzer IV/70 (V) version. In theory, this would have sped up the whole production process, but in reality, only a small number were built by the end of the war.

Panzer IV/70 (A) lost during the battle for Colmar Pocket in February 1945. Source: www.panzernet.net

First Jagdpanzer Designs

Even before the war, the famous German commander General Heinz Guderian had predicted the need for highly mobile self-propelled anti-tank vehicles, later known as ‘Panzerjäger’ or ‘Jagdpanzer’ (tank destroyer or hunter). The terms ‘Jagdpanzer’ and ‘Panzerjäger’ were, according to Germany military terminology and concepts, essentially one and the same. After the war, however, the ‘Jagdpanzer’ term would be used to describe the fully enclosed tank destroyers, while ‘Panzerjäger’ would be used for the open-topped vehicles.

In March of 1940, the first attempt to build such a vehicle was made. This was the 4.7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw. I, generally known today as the ‘Panzerjäger I’. It was more or less a simple improvisation, made by using a modified Panzer I Ausf.B tank hull and mounting a 4.7 cm PaK (t) gun (a captured Czechoslavkian 4.7 cm gun – hence the ‘t’ for ‘Tschechoslowakei’ after the name) with a small protective shield fitted to it. Later, during the attack on the Soviet Union and the battles in North Africa, the need for effective anti-tank vehicles became of greater importance for the Germans. The appearance of the towed 7.5 cm PaK 40 in increasing numbers somewhat solved this problem, but the main issue with this gun was its lack of mobility.

The need for mobile anti-tank vehicles would lead to the development of the ‘Marder’ series, which was based on several different tank chassis and armed with powerful and efficient anti-tank guns. Captured tanks and other vehicles were also reused for this purpose. In 1944, the Nashorn, armed with the excellent 88 mm Pak 43, was put into production. However, most of these types of vehicles were hastily designed and built and, while they did the job, they were far from perfect.

These vehicles were built by using different tank chassis and installing a gun with limited traverse in an open-topped superstructure. The two main issues were the great height, which made them difficult to camouflage, and the general lack of effective armor.

The German infantry support self-propelled assault gun, the Sturmgeschütz, or simply ‘StuG’, (based on the Panzer III) proved to have great potential when used as a tank hunter. It had relatively good armor, a low profile, and could be armed with the longer barrelled L/48 7.5 cm gun. The mass-produced StuG III Ausf.G armed with the longer 7.5 cm gun (L/48) was able to efficiently fight almost all Allied tanks (except for the heaviest) up to the end of the war. The StuG vehicles were also much easier, quicker, and cheaper to build than their tank equivalent.

In 1942, the first plans to equip the StuG with a stronger gun and armor were made. These would eventually lead to the development of a series of three different Jagdpanzer designs based on the Panzer IV tank chassis. Despite the initials plans to equip the first Jagdpanzer IV with the longer 7.5 cm L/70 gun, due to insufficient stocks, the 7.5 cm gun L/48 had to be used instead. When the 7.5 cm L/70 gun became available in sufficient numbers, the production of the Panzer IV/70 (V) version began in late 1944. The last version, known as Panzer IV/70 (A), was an attempt to mount the 7.5 cm L/70 on an unmodified Panzer IV tank chassis.

History

In mid-1944, the German Herres Waffenamt (army ordnance department) personnel conducted a series of investigation to test the Panzer IV’s combat performance. The results were disappointing but, in a way, also somewhat to be expected. The newest enemy tank designs (like the Soviet IS-2 and T-34-85, and the later version or Shermans, M26, etc.) possessed far better combat characteristics, like having stronger armor or firepower than the Panzer IV. While still a threat to the enemy tanks, the Panzer IV was reaching the limit of its development life. Its 7.5 cm L/48 gun was still a potent weapon for its time, however, a stronger gun with much better firepower was more desirable. This was one of the reasons why Adolf Hitler demanded that the production of the Panzer IV tanks should be phased out in favor of the new Panzer IV/70 (V) anti-tank vehicles. As the production of the Panzer IV/70 (V) was too slow and there were urgent demands for increasing numbers of tanks, another solution to use the 7.5 cm L/70 on a Panzer IV vehicle was needed. For this reason, the Alkett factory received orders from the German Army in late June 1944 to test the installation of the 7.5 cm L/70 long gun on the Panzer IV chassis.

Armor penetration table: Source: I. Hogg. (German artillery of world war two). And T.L. Jentz (Germany’s Panther Tank)
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 installation of this gun in the Panzer IV turret had already been tested previous year and proved to be impractical, so the only way to mount this gun was in a self-propelled configuration. Due to a lack of time, resources, and production capacities, Alkett engineers proposed a very simple solution. A redesigned superstructure taken from the Panzer IV/70 (V) would be placed on an unmodified Panzer IV chassis. This would increase the vehicle weight and height but, on the other hand, it would make production far simpler (at least in theory). This project was designated by Alkett as ‘Gerät 558’. It is often marked in post-war sources as Zwischenlösung (interim solution), but this term was never used by the Germans for this vehicles during the war.

This project received a green light from the German Army officials and the first prototype (made by Alkett) was quickly built. It was demonstrated to Adolf Hitler in early July 1944 at Berghof. Hitler was impressed with it and immediately ordered it to be put into production as soon as possible.

Hitler inspects the new Panzer IV/70 (A) prototype vehicle in early July 1944. Source: warspot.ru
Side view of the Panzer IV/70 (A) prototype. Source: firearmcentral.fandom.com

Designation Name

The initial designation for this vehicle was ‘Sturmgeschütz auf Pz.Kpfw.IV Fahrgestell’. This designation was changed by Adolf Hitler himself on 18th July 1944 to the much simpler Panzer IV lang (long) (A). The capital ‘A’ stood for the Alkett company that was responsible for its development. During its service life, other designations were also used, like Panzer IV/L (A) from August 1944, Panzer IV lang (A) 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70 from October 1944 and finally Panzer IV/70 (A) from November 1944. The Panzer IV/70 (A) designation is the most commonly used in the literature today. For this reason and for the sake of simplicity, this article will use this designation.

Technical Characteristics

The Panzer IV/70 (A) was designed to have minimal modifications to the Panzer IV Ausf. J tank chassis. For this reason, the turret and the top of the hull were removed and, in their place, a new superstructure housing the gun was added on top. Visually, the Panzer IV/70(A) was different in comparison to the other Jagpanzers based on the Panzer IV. The most obvious difference is the overall shape of the new superstructure added atop the Panzer IV hull.

The suspension and running gear were the same as those of the original Panzer IV, with no changes to their construction. This consisted, on each side, of eight small double road wheels suspended in four pairs by leaf-spring units. There were two front drive sprockets, two rear idlers, and eight return rollers in total. The number of return rollers was reduced to three per side later in the production run. However, despite this, some late produced vehicles still had four return rollers. Similar to the Panzer IV/70 (V) model, this vehicle was also nose-heavy due to the added weight. For this reason, the front road wheels were prone to being rapidly worn out. In an attempt to solve this problem, most vehicles were to be equipped with four (on both sides) steel-tired and internally sprung wheels from September 1944 onwards.

The engine was the Maybach HL 120 TRM which produced 265 hp at 2,600 rpm but, according to T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2012) in Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Jagdpanzer IV, the engine produced 272 hp at 2,800 rpm. The design of the engine compartment was unchanged. The maximum speed was 37 km/h (15-18 km/h cross country) with an operational range (with 470 liters fuel) of 200 km. These vehicles were fitted with new flame dampening exhausts and mufflers (flammentoeter). The engine and the crew compartments were separated by a fire-resistant and gas-tight armored firewall.

In order to speed up the development process and make the production as simple as possible, the Alkett engineers decided to reuse many elements from the already existing Panzer IV/70 (V) superstructure. While similar in many things (like armor thickness, roof design, gun shield etc.) there were a number of changes that had to be done before the adoption for production. The first thing was the increase in height of the superstructure, which was now 1 m tall in comparison to the original Panzer IV/70 (V), which was 64 cm tall. The side armor angles had to be lower and the added frontal plate had the original Panzer IV driver visor placed on the vehicle left side. The prototype vehicle had a slightly different superstructure design with vertical lower superstructure sides. The production models had the sides angled at 20°.

The Panzer IV/70 (V) superstructure had to be redesigned for two reasons. Firstly, the Panzer IV’s fuel tanks were located beneath the turret. This meant that the installation of the long gun required the raising of the superstructure. The second reason was a problem noted on the Panzer IV/70 (V), namely that, when on the move on rough terrain, the longer gun (if not held in position by the travel lock) occasionally hit the ground (barrel strike) which could cause damage to the elevation mechanism of the gun.

Despite the extra height, the Panzer IV/70 (A)’s superstructure was well protected with its angled and thick armor and had a relatively simple design. The angled shape of the superstructure provided thicker nominal armor and also increased the chance of deflecting enemy shots. This way, the need for more carefully machined armored plates was unnecessary. Also, by using larger one-piece metal plates, the structure avoided, a lot of welding making it much stronger and also easier for production.

A table showing the thickness of the armor of the Panzer IV/70 (A), StuG IV and the Panzer IV Ausf.J vehicles. 1: The second number is for the driver plate armor. 2: The second number is for the engine compartment. 3: Same as previous. Source: Panzer Tracts No.9-2 Jagdpanzer IV, No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV and Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschütz
The prototype vehicle had a slightly different superstructure design with vertical lower superstructure sides. The production models had the sides angled at 20°. In addition, the MG 42’s conical-shaped cover was different on the production vehicle. Source: warspot.ru
The production version had angled side armor and a different machine gun armored cover. Source: Pinterest

The Panzer IV/70 (A)’s upper front hull armor plate was 80 mm thick. The side armor was 30 mm, the rear 20 mm and the bottom was 10 mm. The engine compartment design and armor were unchanged, with 20 mm all around and 10 mm of top armor. The upper superstructure frontal armor was 80 mm at a 50° angle, the sides were 40 mm at a 19° angle, the rear armor was 30 mm, and the top was 20 mm. The front driver plate was 80 mm thick and placed at a 9° angle.

The Panzer IV/70 (A) could be equipped with an additional 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen) covering the sides of the vehicle. In practice though, these would rarely last long and would simply fall off the vehicle during combat operations. Due to material shortages, by late 1944, stiff wire mesh panels (Thoma Schürzen) were used instead of the armor plates. These were much lighter and most sources claim that they provided the same level of protection as the solid type. It is often mentioned that Schürzen were designed as a protection against shape-charged weapons, but they were actually designed to counter Soviet anti-tank rifle projectiles. One more line of protection was the possible application of Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste to counter magnetic anti-tank mines, but the use of this paste would be abandoned in the late stages of the war.

In the hope of removing any extra weight at the front, most spare parts and ancillary equipment were moved to the rear engine compartment. These included things such as spare tracks, wheels, repair tools, the fire extinguisher, and the crew’s equipment. Some vehicles had an armored and welded base for a 2-tonne crane added on the superstructure roof.

Armament

The Panzer IV/70 (A) tank destroyer’s main armament was the 7.5 cm StuK 42 L/70 cannon, also known as the 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70. This gun was more or less the same one used on the German Panther tank. The elevation of the 7.5 cm StuK 42 L/70 was from –6° to +15° and the traverse was 12° on both sides. Due to the increased internal size, the Panzer IV/70 (A) could carry more spare ammunition than its predecessors. Older sources noted that the total ammunition count was 60 rounds, while newer ones give a number of 90 rounds. The main gun was not placed at the vehicle’s center but was instead moved 20 cm to the right side because of the position of the gun sights

The 80 mm thick cast gun mantlet acted as extra protection for the gun. A hydro-pneumatic equilibrator was provided for better gun balance and an iron counter-weight was added at the end of the recoil guard. To avoid damaging the main gun when on the move, a heavy travel-lock was provided. In order to free the gun, the gun operator had only to elevate the gun a bit and the travel lock would fall down. This allowed for a quick combat response and also avoided the need for a crew member to exit the vehicle in order to do it manually.

The secondary support weapons consisted of a 7.92 mm MG 42 machine gun with some 1,200 rounds of ammunition, a 9 mm MP 40 submachine gun and a 7.92 mm MP 43/44 assault rifle. Unlike most other German vehicles, a ball mount was not used on this vehicle. The machine gun port was instead protected by a movable armored cover. The machine gun mount was located to the vehicle’s right side. The Panzer IV/70 (A) vehicles were usually equipped with the ‘Vorsatz P’ curved muzzle attachment for the MP 43/44 (7.92 mm) assault rifles. The mounting for this weapon was placed on the loader’s hatch door and was operated by him.

Rearview of the Panzer IV/70 (A). Several interesting details can be observed, such as the two rear flame dampening exhausts, the track links added to the side of the superstructure that were used as spare parts and extra armor, the ‘Vorsatz P’ curved muzzle on the top right side and the Thoma Schürzen. Source: warspot.ru
Here we can observe the Panzer IV/70 (A)’s MG 42 machine gun. Its movable armored cover is missing on this vehicle. Source: unknown

Crew

The four-man crew consisted of the commander, the gunner, the loader/radio operator, and the driver. The driver’s position was on the vehicle’s left front side. Behind him was the gunner’s position, which was provided with an Sfl.Z.F. 1a gun sight for acquiring targets. This sight was linked to an azimuth indicator, the purpose of which was to tell the gunner the precise current position of the gun. When in use, the sight was projected through the sliding armored cover on the vehicle’s top armor. For operating the gun, there were two handwheels. The lower wheel was for the traverse and the upper one for the elevation. The gunner was also provided with a recoil shield, while the loader was not. Behind these two was the commander’s position, which had a rotating periscope located in the escape hatch and one pointing to the left. The commander had a small additional hatch door for the use of a retractable Sfl.4Z telescope. The commander was also responsible for providing the loader with the ammunition located on the left sidewall. The last crew member was the loader, who was positioned on the vehicle’s right side. He operated the radio (Fu 5 radio set) which was located to the right rear and he also doubled as the MG 42 machine gun operator. There was a small opening located above the machine gun which provided the gun operator with a limited view of the front. When not in use, the machine gun could be pulled into a small travel lock which was connected to the vehicle’s roof. In that case, the machine gun port could be closed by pivoting the armor cover. The crew could enter the vehicle through two hatches located at the top of the vehicle. There was an additional floor escape hatch door that could be used in case of an emergency.

Production

By the orders of Adolf Hitler himself, the production of the Panzer IV/70 (A) was to begin immediately, with an initial order of 350 vehicles. The first 50 were to be built in August 1944, 100 in September, and then 50 vehicles each month until February 1945. However, for unknown reasons, these production orders were never fully implemented by the Waffenamt. The Waffenamt instead issued, on 21st June 1944, new production orders for 50 vehicles in August, 100 in September, 150 in October, 200 in November, 250 in December, and the last 300 in January. Yet very shortly thereafter, new production orders were issued for 50 in August, 100 in September, 150 in October and November, and only 100 December. In early August 1944, the production orders were once again changed to 50 in August, followed by a monthly production of 100 vehicles from October to January 1945. The last changes to the production occurred by the end of January 1945, when the monthly production was to be around 60 vehicles with the last 8 in June.

In the end, these production numbers were never reached due to the chaotic state in Germany in late 1944. Constant changes in the production orders also lead to confusion and delays in production. Besides the prototype, only 277 vehicles were ever built by Nibelungenwerk from Austria, with a monthly production of 3 in August 1944, 60 in September, 43 in October, 25 in November, 75 in December, 50 in January 1945, 20 in February, and the last one in March 1945.

In Combat

The Panzer IV/70 (A) was to be allocated to units equipped with ordinary Panzer IV tanks, with the intent of increasing their firepower at longer ranges. According to initials plans, the first group of 68 vehicles was to be transported to the Eastern Front and then distributed to Panzer IV equipped units. As only five vehicles were actually ready by September 1944, these were instead given to the Führer Begleit Brigade together with a group of 17 Panzer IV tanks. The second group of 17 vehicles was to be dispatched to the Eastern Front, but it actually arrived in mid-October 1944. By the end of October, units that received the Panzer IV/70 (A) were the 3rd Panzer Division, 17th Panzer Division and 25th Panzer Division, which had 17 vehicles each, while the 24th Panzer Division had 13, and the 13th Panzer Division had only 4 vehicles.

In response to the invasion in the West, in late 1944, two Abteilung with 45 vehicles each were formed and attached to the Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland and the 2nd Panzer Regiment. The Panzer IV/70 (A) Abteilung should have had 45 vehicles divided into three companies, each equipped with 14 vehicles, with three additional in the Command Abteilung. These two units were never fully formed due to the general lack of Panzer IV/70 (A) vehicles. The 2nd Panzer Regiment was supplied with 11 and Grossdeutschland with 38 Panzer IV/70 (A) vehicles.

By the end of 1944, Panzer Abteilung 208 was formed. It was supplied with 14 Panzer IV/70 (A) and 31 Panzer IV tanks. It was organized in three companies, one of which was fully equipped with the Panzer IV/70 (A). At this time, 10 Panzer IV/70 (A) were also allocated to the 7th Panzer Division. In January 1945, the last Panzer units to receive 14 Panzer IV/70 (A) vehicles were the 24th Panzer Division and the Panzer Brigade 103.

From January 1945 onwards, the Panzer IV/70 (A) were allocated to Sturmgeschütz units only, mainly in the hope of increasing their firepower against enemy armored vehicles. Around thirteen Sturmgeschuetz Brigades (Stu.G.Brig.) were equipped with 3 vehicles each (for example 341, 394, 190, 276 etc.), while fewer (210, 244, 300 and 311) had four vehicles. Only two Stu.G.Brig. received larger numbers. The Sturm Artillerie Lehr Brigade 111 had 16 vehicles and the Stu.G.Brig. Grossdeutschland had 31.

Thanks to its thick front armor and strong gun, the Panzer IV/70 (A) could be an effective weapon. An example of this comes from Stu.G.Brig. 311. During a Soviet attack on Breslau (mid-April 1945), Stu.G.Brig. 311, three StuG III and one Panzer IV/70 (A) managed to destroy around 10 ISU-152 vehicles. The next day, Stu.G.Brig. 311 again engaged the Soviet armored advance. On this occasion, the Soviets lost 25 armored vehicles, of which 13 were reported to be destroyed by the lone Panzer IV/70 (A). It is unclear if these values and those following are just claimed kills or verified kills.

Another example comes from Panzer Abteilung 208, which was heavily engaged in Hungary from early January 1945 on. On the 1st day of 1945, Panzer-Abteilung 208’s combat strength was 25 Panzer IV (with 21 combat-ready) and 10 Panzer IV/70 (A) (with 7 fully operational). During the heavy Soviet assault (8th January) on the German position around village Izsa (located in Slovakia near the Hungarian border), Panzer Abteilung 208 managed to destroy 24 enemy tanks, of which 7 were credited to the Panzer IV/70 (A), with the loss of three Panzer IV and one Panzer IV/70 (A). The next day, four more Soviet tanks were destroyed, followed by seven more (five were reported to be destroyed by the Panzer IV/70 (A) in the Panzer Abteilung 208’s counter-attack). On 17th January, 11 more Soviet tanks were destroyed by Panzer Abteilung 208, of which four by the Panzer IV/70 (A) near Szentjánospuszta. On 22nd January, Panzer Abteilung 208, with a force of 25 Panzers and Panzer IV/70 (A), made a counter-attack against the Soviet 6th Guards Tank Army, where the enemy lost nine tanks. Panzer Abteilung 208 lost most of its equipment during the failed attack on Kéménd on 19th February 1945. Of course, there is always a chance that in both cases these numbers were exaggerated for propaganda purposes.

The few produced Panzer IV/70 (A) that did reach the front line were simply overrun by the vast numbers of enemy tanks. Most were simply abandoned or destroyed by their crew due to the general lack of fuel and spare parts. The German army was not overly satisfied with the Panzer IV/70 (A)’s performance. In a report made on 15th January 1945 by the Generalinspekteur der Panzer truppen (Inspector General for Panzer units), the Panzer IV/70 (A) was deemed as ‘not combat serviceable’ and that the Panzer IV tank production should be increased.

While the majority of produced Panzer IV/70 (A) were used on the Eastern front, smaller numbers were also present in the West. This vehicle was captured by the Allies somewhere in the West in early 1945. Source: www.panzernet.net
While a potent tank-destroyer, most were lost due to mechanical failures and a general lack of fuel. Source: Pinterest
Front view of a destroyed Panzer IV/70 (A). Source:forums.armchairgeneral.com

Surviving vehicle

Today, only one Panzer IV/70 (A) (serial number 120539) is known to have survived the war and can be found at the French Musée des Blindes at Saumur. It was hit and damaged by Sherman tank fire at close range, but was still in running condition when it was captured by the French resistance army.

The only surviving Panzer IV/70 (A) located at the Musée des Blindes at Saumur. Source: Wiki

Conclusion

While the Panzer IV/70 (A) had the potential to be an effective anti-tank weapon thanks to its good firepower and strong frontal armor, it was built in too few numbers. Another problem was weight distribution and the increase of height which made it difficult to camouflage. This made them easier targets for enemy gunners. The introduction of yet another design put even more stress on the already desperate German industry.

In the end, the Panzer IV/70 (A) did not influence on the course of the war, as it was built in small numbers and too late, but it was nevertheless a potent tank destroyer.



Illustration of the Panzer IV/70 (A), produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Jagdpanzer IV/70(A), Sd.Kfz.162/1 Zwischenlösung
Jagdpanzer IV/70(A) used in support of the 352nd Volksgrenadier division, Ardennes, 1944.

Jagdpanzer IV/70(A) from the 116th Panzer Division
Jagdpanzer IV/70(A) from the 116th Panzer Division, Compogne, Belgium, fall 1944.

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.87 x 2.9 x 2.2 meters
Total weight, battle ready 28 tonnes
Armament 7.5cm PaK 42 L/70 and one 7.92 mm MG 42
Armor Hull front 80 mm, side 30 mm, rear 20 mm and bottom 10-20 mm
Superstructure front 80 mm, side 40 mm top and rear 20 mm
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM, 300 hp (221 kW), 11.63 hp/ton
Speed 37 km/h, 15-18 km/h (cross country)
Suspension Leaf springs
Operational range 200 km, 130 km (cross country)
Total production 278

Sources

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.
P. Chamberlain and T.J. Gander (2005) Enzyklopadie Deutscher waffen 1939-1945 Handwaffen, Artilleries, Beutewaffen, Sonderwaffen, Motor buch Verlag.
A. Lüdeke (2007) Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books.
D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
P. Thomas (2017), Hitler Tank Destroyers 1940-45. Pen and Sword Military.
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,
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (1997) Panzer Tracts No.4 Panzerkampfwagen IV
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2000) Panzer Tracts No.8 Sturmgeschuetz
J. Ledwoch (2002) Panzer IV/70, Militaria.
T. J. Gander (2004), Tanks in Detail JgdPz IV, V, VI and Hetzer, Ian Allan Publishing
Walter J. Spielberger (1993). Panzer IV and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
N. Szamveber (2013) Days of Battle Armoured Operations North Of The River Danube, Hungary 1944-45, Helion & Company
I. Hogg. (1975) German artillery of world war two, Putnell Book.
T.L. Jentz (1995) Germany’s Panther Tank, Schiffer Military History


Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

4,7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw. I (Sd.Kfz.101) ohne Turm, Panzerjäger I

Nazi Germany (1940)
Tank Destroyer – 202 Built

Even before the Second World War, the famous German tank commander, Heinz Guderian, had predicted the need for highly mobile self-propelled anti-tank vehicles, later known as Panzerjäger or Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer or hunter). In March 1940, the first attempt to build such a vehicle was made. This was the 4.7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw. I ohne turm. It was more or less a simple improvisation, made by using a modified Panzer I Ausf.B tank hull and by mounting a 4.7 cm PaK (t) gun with a small shield on it. This vehicle proved to be an effective anti-tank weapon in the early period of the war, with a few examples remaining in service up to 1943.

Birth of the First Panzerjäger

During the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, the 3.7 cm PaK 36 was the main anti-tank gun in use by the Wehrmacht. This gun proved to be effective against Polish tanks and other armored vehicles, which were generally lightly armored. The PaK 36’s mobility and small size proved to have a number of advantages during combat situations, but the biggest problem was the poor penetration power. While in Poland it did the job, for the upcoming invasion of the West, a more powerful gun was desirable. The much stronger 5 cm PaK 38 was still in the development phase and it would not reach the troops in time, so another solution was needed. The Germans were lucky as, during the annexation of Czechoslovakia, they came into possession of fairly large numbers of competent 47 mm anti-guns.

Both the 37 and 47 mm guns were light and relatively easy to move around using trucks, horses or manpower, and, for infantry formations, this was not a great problem. For the Panzer units, a towed anti-tank gun was a problem due to the frequent position changes required by the rapid advance of the armored units. Wheeled trucks had great problems driving off-road. Half-tracks were more efficient in this regard, but there were never enough of them available. In a combat situation, once targets were spotted, the PaK gun had to be disconnected from the towing vehicle and moved by the crew to a designated firing position, which could take valuable and vital time. The PaK gun was also an easy target for the enemy once spotted, as it had only limited protection from the front. Mounting a sufficiently powerful PaK gun on a mobile chassis was more desirable, as it would allow the gun to follow the fast-moving units and to quickly change position to engage enemy targets.

For these reasons, after the Polish campaign, the Heereswaffenamt (ordnance department) made a proposal to mount the Czech 47 mm gun on a modified Panzer I Ausf B. tank chassis. The choice for the tank chassis was based on the obsolescence of the Panzer I as a front line tank and the fact that it was available in sufficient numbers. The Panzer II was still considered useful and effective and the Panzer III and IV were deemed too valuable (and scarce) for such a modification. The company that was chosen to undertake this modification, was Alkett (Altmärkische Kettenfabrik) from Berlin. During late 1939 and early 1940, Alkett made the first drawings of the future Panzerjäger. Very soon, a prototype was built and tested. The conversion proved to be feasible and easy to construct. This prototype was demonstrated to Adolf Hitler himself in February 1940. After this demonstration, an official order for around 132 vehicles was given to Alkett. These vehicles had to be ready by May 1940.

Front view of a Panzerjäger I designed and built by Alkett. Photo: www.drugisvetski.com

Name

The original designation for this vehicle was 4,7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw. I (Sd.Kfz.101) ohne Turm. Nowadays, this vehicle is mostly known as the Panzerjäger I. Whilst sources do not give precise information about the origin of this designation, for the sake of simplicity, this article will use this simpler designation.

The Modifications

For the Panzerjäger I conversion, the Panzer I Ausf.B chassis was used, as it had a more powerful engine and was longer than the Ausf.A. The Panzerjäger I’s suspension and running gear were the same as those of the original Panzer I Ausf.B, with no change to its construction. It consisted of five road wheels on both sides. The first wheel used a coil spring mount 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 were two front drive sprockets, two rear idlers and eight return rollers in total (four on each side).

The main engine was the water-cooled 3.8 l Maybach NL 38 TR, giving out 100 hp at 3,000 rpm. Due to the extra equipment and larger weapon, the vehicle weight was increased to 6.4 tonnes. The added extra weight affected the crossroad performance but the maximum speed was unchanged at 40 km/h. The gearbox (ZF Aphon FG 31) had five forward and one reserve speeds.

The most obvious change was the removal of the tank turret and, in addition, the superstructure upper and rear armor were also removed. In place of the turret was a new gun mount for the 4.7 cm gun. For better stability, the gun mount was held in place by three metal bars. Two vertical bars were connected to the vehicle bottom and another larger one to the rear engine compartment. For this conversion, the gun wheels and trails were removed. In addition, the standard 4.7 cm PaK (t) gun shield was replaced with a smaller curved one. For the protection of the crew, the first series of Panzerjäger I had a five-sided armored compartment, the plates of which were 14.5 mm thick. This armored compartment was bolted to the vehicle hull, which made repairs much easier. The second series of produced vehicles had two additional (one on each side) armored plates added, which increase the directions from which the vehicle was protected. This armored compartment provided only limited protection from the front and sides due to weak armor thickness. This is one of the reasons that the crews of these vehicles used steel helmets. In a vague hope of increasing the armor protection, some crews added spare tracks to the vehicle’s front armor.

The gun used was the Skoda 47 mm Kanon P.U.V.vz.38, known as the 4.7 cm Panzerabwehrkanone 36 (t), or simply as 4.7 cm PaK (t) in German service. It was an effective weapon for its time. During the period of August 1939 to May 1941, some 566 4.7 cm PaK(t) were built by Škoda for the Germans. The standard Panzergranate Pz.Gr.36 (t) had a muzzle velocity of 775 m/s and a maximum effective ranger range of 1.5 km. The armor penetration of this round was 48-59 mm at 500 m and 41 mm at 1 km range with the standard AP round. The 4.7 cm PaK (t) could effectively destroy most tanks of the time at long distances, with the exception of the British Matilda, French B1 and later T-34 and the KV-1. In order to extend its operational effectiveness, a new Pzgr.Patr.40 tungsten round was developed (muzzle velocity was 1080 m/s). As the Germans lacked sufficient tungsten, this type of ammunition could not be produced in larger quantities and their usage was rare. The 4.7 cm PaK (t) also fired high explosive rounds (2.3 kg weight) with impact fuses to be used against light armor and infantry targets. The 47 mm gun had an elevation of -8° to +10° (or +12° depending on the source) and a traverse angle of 17.5° on each side. Elevation and traverse were controlled by two handwheels located on the gun’s left side. The main weapon monocular gunsight was not changed.

The total ammunition load was 86 rounds carried inside the vehicle in five different ammunition boxes. Only 10 HE rounds were carried, located behind the loader on the vehicle’s right side. On the right side of the crew fighting compartment, where the loader was seated, there was another ammunition box with 34 AP rounds. Some 16 AP additional rounds were placed under the gun. The remaining rounds were located at the rear fighting compartment under the gunner’s and loader’s seats.

For crew protection against infantry attack, a MP 38/40 submachine gun was provided. The ammunition for this weapon was stored on the left and right sides of the armored crew compartment. The crews could also carry additional personal weapons depending on the combat situation.

As it had no machine gun mount for an MG 34, the crew was instead provided with an MP-38/40 submachine gun, which served for limited protection from infantry attacks. Photos: www.worldwarphotos.info

Adequate radio equipment was important and, thus, the vehicles were provided with the Fu 2 receiver. A flexible antenna (1.4 m high) from the original Panzer I was located to the right of the driver. Later vehicles were equipped with a receiver and a transmitter (Funksprechgerat A) for better communication. These models had the radio antenna relocated to the vehicle’s left rear side.

The Panzerjäger I was operated by three crew members, who, due to the lack of space, had to perform more than one role. The driver, who was located inside the vehicle, was also the radio operator. The commander, who also acted as the gunner, was located on the left side of the armored compartment. The last crew member was the loader, who was located to the right side, beside the commander. To avoid being affected by harsh weather, the crew was provided with a folding tarpaulin cover.

In order to carry additional crew equipment or for used ammunition casings, a welded metal or mesh wire basket was added to the rear, above the engine compartment. Sometimes additional storage boxes were placed on the fenders or to the vehicle rear.

Panzerjager I side view. The vehicle’s relatively small height and the five-sided armored shield for crew protection are observable. Photo: www.worldwarphotos.info
A vehicle from the second production series, easily identified by the extra armor plate added to the rear. Photo: www.worldwarphotos.info

Production

The Panzerjäger I was produced in two series during the war. The first series was assembled by Alkett and production lasted from March to May 1940. The guns were to be provided by Škoda, with Krupp-Essen providing 60 armored shields. Hannover-Linder also provided an additional 72 armored shields. The monthly production for this batch of vehicles was 30 in March, 60 in April and 30 in May. Due to a lack of guns, two vehicles could not be completed. These two would be completed in September 1940 and in July 1941.

Krupp-Essen was tasked with providing 70 new armored shields for the second production series starting on 19th September 1940. However, the production orders were changed and only 10 armored shields were to be shipped to Alkett. The remaining 60 vehicles were to be assembled by Kloeckner-Humboldt-Deutz A.G.. The first 10 were completed in November, followed by 30 in December and the last 30 in February 1941. In total, 142 vehicles were assembled by Alkett and 60 by Kloeckner-Humboldt-Deutz A.G. These numbers are according to T.L. Jentz’ and H.L. Doyle’s (2010) Panzer Tracts No.7-1 Panzerjäger.

Organization

The Panzerjäger I vehicles were used to equip the Panzerjäger Abteilung (Pz.Jg.Abt) motorisierte Selbstfahrlafette, in essence anti-tank (or tank hunter) battalions using guns on self-propelled carriages. Each Pz.Jg.Abt was composed of one Stab Pz.Jg.Abt, equipped with one Pz.Kpfw.I Ausf.B, and three Kompanie (companies). These Kompanie were equipped with 9 vehicles each. The Kompanie were again divided into Zuge (platoons), each with 3 vehicles and one Sd.Kfz.10 half-track for ammunition supply.

In combat

The Panzerjäger I would see its first combat action in 1940, during the attack on the West. While the majority were prepared for the invasion of the Soviet Union, small numbers were used in the Axis occupation of the Balkans and in the North African desert.

Attack on the West, May 1940

For the upcoming invasion of France, four Pz.Jg.Abt were to be engaged, but only Pz.Jg.Abt 521 was combat-ready from the start. Pz.Jg.Abt 521 was allocated to Gruppe von Kleist prior to the beginning of the campaign on 10th May. The remaining three units, the 616th, 643rd and 670th, were gradually sent to the front once they achieved full combat readiness. These were fully equipped with 27 vehicles each, with the exception of Pz.Jg.Abt 521, which had only 18 vehicles, with 6 in each Kompanie.

The Panzerjäger I proved to be an effective weapon during the French camping. The Panzerjäger I’s strongest point was its 4.7 cm gun, which could effectively penetrate the armor of most Allied tanks from over 500 to 600 m. While it was primarily designed to attack tanks, it was often used for attacking machine gun nests or similar targets. Machine gun positions could be effectively engaged from ranges of over 1 km. In a report from the 18th Infantry Division made after the defeat of France, the effectiveness of this vehicle is clear “… The 4.7 cm PaK auf.Sfl. has proven itself to be very effective against tanks and also against houses when fighting in towns. It had a very real effect as well as a demoralizing effect on the opponent…

However, during the French campaign, numerous flaws were also noted. Despite having much better mobility than the towed anti-tank guns, the Panzer I chassis proved to be prone to malfunctions. The Panzerjäger I was often plagued with suspension problems. Another grave issue was that the engine overheated. In hotter days, in order to avoid overheating the engine, the Panzerjäger I could not be driven at a speed higher than 30 km/h with a half an hour pause every 20 to 30 km.

The lack of proper telescopic sights made the observation of the surroundings very dangerous for the crews. There were numerous instances crew members were killed by headshots while observing their surroundings from above the shielded compartment. This often forced the Panzerjäger I commander to rely on the gun sight only, which could be problematic when the vehicle was on the move. Another problem was the lack of proper communication equipment between the commander and the driver. Sometimes, due to the noise of the engine, it was almost impossible for the driver to hear the commander.

Armor protection was minimal. The Panzer I’s maximal armor was only 13 mm thick, while the combat compartment’s armored shield was a bit thicker, at 14.5 mm. This armor only provided protection from small caliber rounds and was useless even against French 25 mm anti-tank guns. Being open-topped caused other issues, as the crew could be easily killed. The limited space inside the vehicle caused additional problems, as the crew often lacked space to carry extra equipment or personal belongings. For this reason, some vehicles were equipped with a large storage box place on the right fender.

These problems would never be fully solved and would remain throughout the Panzerjäger I’s whole carrier. The poor roads in Russia and the hot climate in North Africa caused huge stress on the Panzer I tank chassis.

A row of tank destroyers in La Rochelle, France. Photo: www.worldwarphotos.info

Forming of New Units

With more vehicles being assembled in 1940 and early 1941, it was possible to form additional units. The first new unit was Pz.Jg.Abt. 169 (which was later renamed to 529). By the end of October 1940, Pz.Jg.Abt 605 was formed. Besides these, two Panzer-Jaeger-Kompanie (Panz.Jaeg.Kp) with 9 vehicles each were formed. The first, on 15th March 1941, was attached to Leibstandarte SS-Adolf Hitler. In April 1941, the second Kompanie was attached to the Lehr Brigade 900. Unknown numbers were allocated to the 4th Kompanie of the Panzerjäger Ersatz Abteilung 13, which was, in essence, a training unit at Magdeburg.

In the Balkans

For the conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece, the Panzerjäger Is from Leibstandarte SS-Adolf Hitler saw some action. However, as the opposing forces lacked any larger armored formation engagements with tanks were probably rare if any took place at all.

Operation Barbarossa

For the upcoming invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, five independent tank hunter battalions equipped with the Panzerjäger I were allocated to this front. These were the 521st, 529th, 616th, 643rd and 670th Pz.Jg.Abt, with a total of 135 vehicles. Pz.Jg.Abt 521 was allocated to the XXIV Mot.Korps Panzergruppe 2 H.Gr.Mitte, Pz.Jg.Abt 529 to VII. Korps 4th Armee H.Gr.Mitte, Pz.Jg.Abt 616 to Panzergruppe 4 H.Gr.Nord, Pz.Jg.Abt 643 to XXXIV Mot.Korps Panzergruppe 3 H.Gr.Mitte and Pz.Jg.Abt 670 to PanzerGruppe 1 H.Gr.Süd. There were other independent battalions (559th, 561st and 611th, for example) equipped with vehicles using the same gun but placed on the Pz.Kpfw. 35(f) tank chassis (captured in France).

Almost from the start, due to unexpected Soviet resistance, the losses among all German units began to mount. This was also the case with the independent tank hunter battalions equipped with the Panzerjäger I. For example, by late July 1941, Pz.Jg.Abt 529 lost four vehicles. By late November, the unit had only 16 vehicles (two were not operational) at its disposal.

Due to the weak armor, camouflage was essential for the vehicle’s survival. Source: Wikimedia Commons

During this campaign, the Panzerjäger I was also used to support the infantry. This was the case for Pz.Jg.Abt 521 while supporting the 3rd Panzer Division. Due to a lack of operational Soviet tanks, the Panzerjäger I were used for supporting infantry, operating similarly to the StuG III. The Panzerjäger I commanders, due to the light armor and smaller gun compared to the StuG III’s, opposed this deployment of their vehicles.

Despite their protest, the Panzerjäger Is of Pz.Jg.Abt 521 were extensively used in this role. While the 4.7 cm had an effective range of 1.5 km, the light armor of the vehicle made attacking any fortified position defended with anti-tank or artillery guns almost suicidal and lead to many losses. For example, during the attack on Soviet positions near Mogilev, Pz.Jg.Abt 521 lost 5 vehicles. Some did not even have a chance to fire at enemy positions before being destroyed. Despite its weak armor, the Panzerjäger I could be effective against enemy machine gun nest and for supporting infantry attacks if properly used and if the enemy had no artillery or other anti-tank weapons.

However, these actions were still dangerous for the crews due to the open-top nature of the vehicles. In addition, the lack of secondary support weapons, like MG-34 machine guns, meant the Panzerjäger Is were vulnerable to infantry attacks. The use of the Panzerjäger I in a support role against unarmored targets can be best described by the ammunition usage. From the start of Operation Barbarossa to the end of 1941, the Panzerjäger I units fired a total of 21,103 AP and 31,195 HE rounds of ammunition.

Engagements with enemy tanks also took place. A rather strange example comes from an action near Woronesh-Ost (Voronež) in August 1940, when one Panzerjäger I from Pz.Jg.Ab 521 engaged a Soviet BT tank. When the BT crew spotted the Panzerjäger I, the commander of the Soviet vehicle decided to ram the German tank destroyer. The Panzerjäger I managed to fire two shots at the incoming BT tank. After these hits, the BT tank caught fire but kept moving and rammed the Panzerjäger I.

The German losses by the end of 1941 were tremendous. In the case of the Panzerjägers armed with the 47 mm guns (both those based on the Panzer I and those based on the Renault R35), around 140 vehicles were lost. By 1942, most Panzerjager I units were being equipped with the better armed Marder III series. By May 1942, Pz.Jg.Abt 521 had only 8 operational Panzerjäger I vehicles. It was reinforced with Marder III vehicles with the 7.62 cm gun and with 12 ammunition carriers based on the Panzer I chassis. In 1942, Pz.Jg.Abt 670 operated one company of Panzerjäger I and two of Marders. Pz.Jg.Abt 529 had only two vehicles remaining when it was disbanded in late June 1942. Pz.Jg.Abt 616 managed to effectively maintain three Panzerjäger I Kompanies during this time.

While the Panzerjager I proved to be effective against the lighter armored Soviet tanks (T-26 or BT series), the newer T-34 and KV series proved to be problematic to the point that the 4.7 cm gun was deemed ineffective. This forced the Germans to look for larger caliber weapons. The surviving Panzerjäger I became obsolete by the standards of late 1942 and early 1943.

The low armor thickness of the Panzerjäger I could be easily pierced by any kind of gun larger than rifle caliber. Photo: www.worldwarphotos.info
In the hope of increasing the armor protection, the crews would sometimes add tracks to the vehicle’s front. While this did little do increase armor protection, it at least provided spare track links if needed. Photo: www.worldwarphotos.info

In Africa

Pz.Jg.Abt 605 was the only unit equipped with the Panzerjäger I to operate in North Africa. It was shipped to Africa from Italy and arrived in mid-March 1941. Pz.Jg.Abt 605, with its 27 operational Panzerjäger I, was allocated to the 5th Leichte Division. At the beginning of October 1940, in order to replace losses, a group of five Panzerjäger I were to be shipped to Africa but only three arrived. The remaining two were lost during the sea voyage.

By the time of Operation Crusader in November 1941, Pz.Jg.Abt 605 was in action and, on that occasion, lost 13 vehicles. In order to replenish the dwindling supply of spare parts for the Panzerjäger I, the Panzer I tanks of the German Afrika Korps were often cannibalized for the purpose, as they were obsolete or were put out of action. By the end of 1941, Pz.Jg.Abt. 605 had 14 operational Panzerjäger I remaining.

In January 1942, it was reinforced with four more vehicles, followed by three more in September and October 1942. In order to give Pz.Jg.Abt 605 much stronger firepower, in early 1942, the unit received improvised Sd.Kfz.6 half-tracks armed with the 7.62 cm gun, known as ‘Diana’. In mid-May 1942, Pz.Jg.Abt. 605 had around 17 operational vehicles. By the battle of El Alamein in October 1942, eleven vehicles were reported as operational. The last two replacement vehicles arrived in November 1942.

Panzerjäger I being unloaded from a ship in North Africa. Photo: www.worldwarphotos.info

During the African campaign, the Panzerjäger I was plagued with the same problems like on the other fronts. The armor was too weak, the suspension was prone to breakdowns, there were problems with the radio’s operational range, the engine frequently overheated and others. On the other hand, the gun’s performance was deemed sufficient. There are reports of three destroyed Matilda tanks at 400 m range in one action by using the rare tungsten rounds.

Panzerjäger I during the African campaign, 1941/1942. Due to problems with supplies, the crews often carried additional canisters full of water or fuel. Photo: www.worldwarphotos.info

Surviving vehicles

Four vehicles were captured by the Allies. One was sent to Britain and one to America for evaluation. This last one would remain at the American Aberdeen Proving Grounds up to 1981, when it was gifted to Germany. After restoration, it was moved to the Wehrtechnische Dienstselle at Trier. The fate of the remaining captured vehicles is unknown.

The only surviving Panzerjäger I, at the Wehrtechnische Dienstselle. Photo: Craig Moore

Conclusion

The Panzerjäger I proved to be an effective vehicle but not without faults. The gun had a higher armor penetration power than the current German anti-tank guns in the first years of the war. The problems with this vehicle were numerous, including the low armor protection, engine problems, transmission breakdowns, small crew, etcetera. Despite these, it proved to be capable of destroying enemy tanks that were otherwise immune to the smaller caliber 3.7 cm PaK 36.

The Panzerjäger I’s greatest merit is that it showed that the self-propelled anti-tank weapon concept was feasible and effective. It allowed the German Army to gain important experience in this kind of warfare.



Panzerjäger I of the Panzerjäger Abteilung 521, France, May 1940. It was part of the only eighteen vehicles ready on time to take part in the opening hours of the operations. The other companies were still training and would be engaged later in the campaign.


A Panzerjäger I operating during the Balkan campaign, in Yugoslavia and Greece, April-May 1941.


A Panzerjäger I of the Afrika Korps, Panzerjäger-Abteilung 605 (605th Anti-tank Battalion), Gazala, February 1942. Only 27 vehicles were sent, plus some replacements. They were the only tank-hunters available to Rommel during the whole campaign, until El Alamein.

These illustrations were produced by Tank Encyclopedia’s own David Bocquelet.

Panzerjäger I specifications

Dimensions 4.42 x 2.06 x 2.14 m (14.5×6.57×7.02 ft)
Total weight, battle-ready 6.4 tonnes
Crew 3 (commander/gunner, loader and the driver/radio operator)
Propulsion Maybach NL 38 TR
Speed 40 km/h, 25 km/h (cross country)
Range 170 km, 115 km (cross country)
Armament 4.7 cm PaK (t)
Traverse 17.5 °
Elevation -8° to +10°
Armor Hull 6 to 13 mm, Upper armored superstructure 14.5 mm
Total production 202

Sources

N. Askey (2014), Operation Barbarossa: The complete organisational and statistical analysis and military simulation Volume IIB, Lulu publisher.
P. Thomas (2017), Hitler Tank Destroyers 1940-45. Pen and Sword Military.
L.M. Franco (2005), Panzer I The beginning of a dynasty, Alcaniz Fresno’s SA.
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.
P. Chamberlain and T.J. Gander (2005) Enzyklopadie Deutscher waffen 1939-1945 Handwaffen, Artilleries, Beutewaffen, Sonderwaffen, Motor buch Verlag.
A. Lüdeke (2007) Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books.
D. Doyle (2005). German military Vehicles, Krause Publications.
P. P. Battistelli (2006), Rommel’s Afrika Korps, Osprey Publishing.
H.F. Duske (1997), Nuts and Bolts Vol.07 Panzerjäger I, Nuts & Bolts Books.
T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (2010) Panzer Tracts No.7-1 Panzerjäger


Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

8.8 cm PaK 43/1 auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw III und IV (Sf) Sd.Kfz. 164 “Nashorn”

ww2 German Tanks Nazi Germany (1943)
Tank Hunter – 494 built

As the German armored forces advanced on all fronts in 1940 and 1941, they encountered many different enemy tank types that were almost immune to the guns of their Panzers. In France, these were the Char B1 bis and the British Matildas (both the A11 and A12 Matilda). When the Germans met the first Matildas at Arras, it was an unpleasant shock, although one that was overcome. In the Soviet Union were the famous T-34 and heavy KV-series, and in Africa, again, (in larger numbers) the A12 Matilda tank. While they were able to defeat these by various means, the Germans were pressed to find a better way to combat these threats.
The newly developed towed anti-tank guns (like the PaK 40, built in 1942 and the much stronger PaK 43 in 1943) could efficiently destroy these tanks, but they were not suitable for offensive operations due to their heavy weight. A logical solution was to try to mount these towed anti-tank guns on a tank chassis and thus solve problems of mobility, and so the new Panzerjäger’s were born.
These new vehicles followed a similar pattern: most were open-topped, with limited traverse, and thin armor. They were, though, armed with an effective anti-tank gun, and usually with one machine gun. They were also cheap and easier to build than ordinary Panzers. Panzerjäger’s were, in essence, improvised and temporary solutions, but effective ones nevertheless. Just as the name suggests, they were designed to hunt down enemy tanks at long range on open fields. Their primary mission was to engage enemy tanks and to act as fire support at long range from carefully selected combat positions, usually on the flanks.
In 1943, the development of an anti-tank gun version of the FlaK 41 was completed. As, at that time, there were no dedicated chassis’ designed to carry this gun and in order to increase the mobility of the towed version, a temporary self-propelled solution was needed. From this need, a new vehicle, well known as the Nashorn (Rhinoceros), would be designed and built based on a modified Panzer III/IV tank chassis.

History

The story of the Nashorn began in June 1942, when Hitler demanded that a new anti-tank gun should be developed based on the 88 mm Flak 41. Two famous German weapon manufacturers, the firms of Krupp and Rheinmetall, were tasked with its development. It was estimated that the development and production of some 300 to 500 guns would be ready by mid-1943. For this reason, it was proposed to also develop different towed carriages and self-propelled designs.
It was quickly noted that the new Selbstfahrlafette (self-propelled chassis) could not be completed by the time the new 88 mm gun was ready and so a new solution was needed to get the new weapon on the battlefield faster. In a Wa Pruef meeting held on 28th July 1943, it was decided to speed up the project by using already existing production capacities. An order was placed to the firm of Alkett-Borsigwalde to design and build a self-propelled chassis by using different components of the Panzer III and IV. Alkett was quick to make a soft steel metal prototype which was presented to Hitler in early October 1942. The new chassis was to be used for two different projects, one armed with the 88 mm gun and the second armed with 15 cm s.F.H 43 long-range artillery gun. Hitler was impressed with both designs and ordered a production run of 200 vehicles (100 of each).

An early production Nashorn. Its travel lock is missing. This vehicle was captured by the Soviets and tested at Kubinka. Source

Name

There were several different military designations for this vehicle, such as: Sfl. auf PzKpfw. III/IV Fahrgestell Hornisse mitt 8.8 cm PaK 43 from January 1943, Panzerjager III/IV “Hornisse” für 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 (Sd.Kfz.164) from August 1943, 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 Sfl. “Nashorn” from September 1944 and 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw.III und IV (Sf) Sd.Kfz. 164.
Early on, it was also simply known as the Hornisse (Hornet). In late 1943, Hitler ordered to change the nickname to Nashorn (Rhinoceros). For the sake of simplicity, this article will use the Nashorn name.

Specification

Despite its close resemblance to the ordinary Panzer IV tank chassis, the Nashorn was actually designed and built by combining elements and components from both the Panzer III and Panzer IV. The Nashorn hull was mostly the same as that of the Panzer IV, but with the width of a Panzer III. Most of the components of the drivetrain were taken also taken from the Panzer III, including the two front drive sprockets, the transmission, and the steering unit with the drive shaft. The suspension was taken directly from the Panzer IV and it consisted of eight small road wheels on each side, suspended in pairs by leaf-spring units, a rear idler and four return rollers on each side. The tracks were also taken from the Panzer IV, with 108 links in total. The distance between the rear road wheels and the idler was somewhat increased during the production. The Nashorn could be equipped with different track types depending on the combat need and availability, like the Winterketten or Osketten for example. Despite being produced up the end of the war, the number of return rollers was never reduced to three (per side) on Nashorns, in contrast to other Panzer IV-based based vehicles.
The engine compartment was moved to the vehicle’s reinforced center. This was mostly done in order to create enough room for the gun and the crew to operate efficiently at the back. The engine was the Maybach HL 120 TRM, taken together with the radiators, cooling fans, and muffler from the Panzer IV. The engine performance was more or less the same as on the Panzer IV, giving a maximum speed of 40 km/h. Due to the central engine position, in order to avoid engine overheating, two (on both lower hull sides) rectangular shape cooling ports were added. In addition, the Nashorn had a crew interior heater system despite being open-topped. The engine was started by using an electrical starter but, depending on the situation, could be started manually by a crank located in the crew compartment. The fuel load was around 600 l (or 470 l depending on the source) held in two fuel tanks placed below the fighting compartment. With these, the Nashorn had an operational range of 260 km (around 130 km cross country). The Nashorn also had a problem with frequent breakdowns of the engine, mostly due to overheating, which was never fully solved.

Side view of the Nashorn, with the engine cooling ports visible. Source
The front of the Nashorn was covered by a well-angled and simple armored plate. The driver compartment on the front left side was fully protected. The driver had three observation hatches, one for the front, and one on each side. On top of the driver’s enclosed compartment was a round hatch. The rear crew compartment was protected by armored slats, but was open from the top. To the rear was a two-part door, through which the crew members could access their positions. The new superstructure (both the front and the rear) had a very simple design but the armor was very light. The maximum armor was 30 mm around the driver compartment and the frontal glacis, the hull sides and rear were 20 mm and the bottom 10 mm. The superstructure armor was only 10 mm on all sides, the top was open. Originally, it was planned that the armor would be 20 mm on the superstructure and 50 mm in the hull, but these plans were dropped in order to save weight. The new superstructure was built by Witkowitzer Bergütte und Geschutzwerke from Witkowice Silesia, all being completed by the end of 1943.
The rear part of the vehicle was the combat compartment, which offered the crew more working space. Crew-necessary equipment, instruments, personal belongings, weapons and ammunition were also stored here. Most of these were stored on the compartment sides. On the right side were the mountings for an MG-34 machine gun (with 600 rounds of ammunition) and spare parts, gas mask box, radio equipment, and 88 mm round storage cases. On the opposite side there was another 88 mm round storage case, MG-34 mounting, signal pistol, hot air inlets from the engine, a lever for releasing the gun lock, and the gun sights mount with its box. At the rear were usually held the crew personal weapons (MP-38 for example) and ammunition. Other equipment that was stored included the tarpaulin for protection from bad weather, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, and poles for determination of the direction of the firing axis (these were removed after March 1943) etc.
The crew consisted of five members, the commander, the gunner, the radio operator, the loader, and the driver. The driver and the radio operator were stationed in the front hull as on the Panzer IV (driver to the left and radio operator right) and were the only crew members that were fully protected. The driver controlled the vehicle by using levers and pedals that were positioned in front of the driver. Behind them, in the open combat compartment, were the remaining crew members. The gunner was stationed to the left of the gun, while the commander and the loader were behind him. For the crew, two internally mounted periscopes could be added for viewing the surrounding without being exposed to enemy fire.
In the case of Abteilung Stab Kompanie, additional radio equipment was provided (Fu 8) beside the standard radio. This caused some problems for the radio operator, as he was physically unable, due to different positions of the radio sets, to operate them both. The Nashorn equipped units often requested that an additional radio operator be provided to the Abteilung Stab. It is not clear if this was ever implemented, as the sources do not give more information on this matter.

The 88 mm PaK 43/41

During the war, Germans produced two anti-tank gun versions based on the 88 mm Flak 41. The first one was the PaK 43, which was mounted on a four-wheel carriage, and the second was the PaK 43/41 (also known as PaK 43/1 in some sources), placed on a mount with components from a few different artillery pieces (wheels from 15 cm s.FH.18 and the split trail legs from 10.5 cm l.FH.18). The PaK 43/41 used a horizontal sliding block mechanism, while the Pak 43 had a vertical one. The PaK 43/41 was an effective anti-tank gun, being able to take out all of the Allied tanks, but was also too heavy. It was jokingly known by its crews as the ‘barn door’ (Scheunentor).

Side view of the 88 mm PaK 43/41. Note the Lorraine 37L-based SPG in the back. Source
The PaK 43/41 was chosen as the main armament of the Nashorn. The installation was done by placing the gun mount above the central engine compartment. During production, there were plans to replace it with the Pak 43 version, but this was never implemented. The new gun was more or less the same as the towed version, with minor modifications in order to install it inside a vehicle. The 88 mm gun had a traverse of 30° and elevation of -5° to +20° (or -5° to +35° depending on the source). The recoil cylinder was located under and the recuperator above the gun. There were also two counterbalance cylinders (one on each side).
For direct fire, the Zieleinrichtung 43 SVo (with 3x magnification and 8-degree field of view) gunsight was used. For indirect fire, it was the Zieleinrichtung 34. These two sights were installed on the first series of 50 vehicles, after which the Zieleinrichtung 37 (with Sfl. Z.F.1a periscope) was used. With the installation of the new gun sight, the open slot in the gun shield where the old sight was positioned was closed.
The Nashorn 88 mm gun could fire four different types of ammunition:

  • 88 mm Pzgr.39 (with a weight of 10 kg and muzzle velocity of 1000 m/s) AP round
  • 88 mm Sprgr. (with a weight of 9.4 kg and muzzle velocity of 700 m/s) HE round with a maximum range of 17,500 m
  • 88 mm Pzgr.40 (with a weight of 7.3 kg and muzzle velocity of 1,140 m/s), a tungsten-cored round, but it was rarely deployed due to general lack of this metal
  • 88 mm Gr.HL (with a weight of 7.62 kg and muzzle velocity of 600 m/s) hollow charge round


A loader of a Nashorn is preparing to load a new round into the gun. Despite the relatively spacious rear fighting compartment, the total ammunition load was small. Source.
When using the standard AP round, the gun could penetrate 182 mm of armor sloped at 30° at a range of 500 m. At, 1,000 m, this dropped to 167 and at 2000 m to 139 mm. The rare tungsten round, at the same ranges and angle, could penetrate 226 mm, 162 mm and 136 mm. The hollow charge round could penetrate 90 mm of armor inclined at 30° at any range.
Despite the larger crew compartment, due to the large ammunition size, only a small number of rounds was carried inside the Nashorn. The ammunition was stored in two (one on each side) ammunition bins with 16 rounds in total, with an additional 24 round that could be stored on the floor. Due to the small ammo stowage, a constant supply of ammunition was to be provided by using Maultier half-tracks, which could not be always successfully achieved on the battlefield. It is plausible that the crews would have stored additional rounds in any available free space inside the vehicle. There were some problems with a general lack of ammunition, which could not be produced in sufficient numbers.
Originally, early vehicles were equipped with the same travel lock as on the Hummel, probably in order to simplify production. This travel lock did the job of holding the gun in position, but it had a drawback. In order to free the gun, one of the crew had to go out and manually remove the bolt that held it in place. While this is not a big issue for the Hummel, a vehicle that was usually providing fire support (depending on the combat situation) kilometers away from the main front line, for the Nashorn, which was far closer to the front, this was a big issue. One of the crew members had to expose himself to possible enemy fire and the time lost could prove to be fatal The gun lock was later replaced with an improved one that could be controlled from inside the vehicle. There was also a rear gun position travel lock, but its use was discarded in later models. The gun shield would see some changes in design to better fit with the superstructure sidewalls.

Production

Two firms were selected for the production of the Nashorn: Alkett from Berlin and Stahlindustrie from Duisburg. Alkett was charged with series production of 10 vehicles in January, 20 in February, 30 in March and then at a rate of 30 vehicles per month until March 1944, producing a total of 420 vehicles. Stahlindustrie was tasked with a smaller production series of 5 in May, 10 in June, 15 in July and then 15 per month (also until March 1944), with a total production of only 150 vehicles.
Like nearly all German production plans, the one for the Nashorn did not go as intended. In early February, in a meeting between Hitler and Speer, it was decided to reduce the monthly production of the Nashorn from 45 to only 20 vehicles. This was done for two reasons. Firstly, the Nashorn was seen as a temporary solution and never intended for large mass production. Secondly, it was intended to increase the production of the more important Hummel SPG. Due to a lack of main guns, Stahlindustrie was not able to commence Nashorn production and instead began producing Hummels. In July 1943, the production numbers were once again changed to 500 vehicles. Plans for changing the main armament to a modified 88 mm PaK 43 were abandoned in the hope of increasing the numbers of PaK 43/41 guns available, in order to build all the 500 planned vehicles. Due to the Allied bombing campaign in late 1943, the production of the 88 mm Pak was significantly slowed down, which also influenced the production of Nashorn. By 4th November 1943, some 284 vehicles were completed, while the remaining 216 were to be built in a series of 40 vehicles until March 1944, with the last 16 the following month.
In late November, there were even talks of stopping the Nashorn production, but it was decided to go on with it until the Jagdpanther was ready in 1944. Also in November, Alkett was bombed, so Nashorn production had to be moved to Deutsche Eisenwerke A.G. which had assembly factories located in Teplitz-Schönau and Duisburg. By May 1944, Alkett stopped the production of the Nashorn and Deutsche Eisenwerke were tasked with series production of 100 vehicles from April to June 1944. The order was changed to 130 from April to September, but due to many delays (lack of engines, transmissions, etc.), the production continued at a slower pace until the end of the war. In total, 494 vehicles (chassis number 310001-310494) were built, with 345 in 1943, 133 in 1944 and the last 16 in 1945.
In March 1945, there were discussions to reuse Hummel chassis’ and re-equip them with 88 mm guns, but due to material shortages, the need of the mobile artillery and the close end of the war, nothing came of this proposal.

Production Changes

As the Nashorn was considered only a temporary solution, the Germans did not introduce many modifications during its production run. It would only receive these modifications in order to simplify construction. Because of these changes, there were some minor differences between the early and late produced vehicles. Officially, there was never a special designation change in order to identify the early or late produced vehicles.
The early production vehicles had two front Bosch headlights, rear fitted mufflers and two front-mounted wheels. The later built vehicles had only one headlight, on the vehicle’s left side. The rear exhaust muffler was removed and replaced with exhaust pipes located on both of the vehicle’s sides. The front two wheels were moved to the rear and the rear mudguards were removed.
The early vehicles were equipped with the Hummel travel lock, but later models would have a new travel lock, equipped with a very simple wire release system which could be used from inside the vehicle.

Front view of the Nashorn, showing the improved travel lock that was released by a cable from inside the vehicle. These Nashorn “crewmen” are actually British soldiers, as this vehicle was captured somewhere in Italy. Source: Wikimedia
The rear mudguards were removed on later-built vehicles. There were also minor changes in the design of the driver’s observation hatch cover. Two brake vents were placed in the lower part of the angled front armor. During production, the size and design of the brake vents was slightly changed.
A hole with a movable armor cover was added to the lower-left of the hull. Its purpose was to help with warming the engine coolant with a blowtorch in cold weather. Two towing hooks were welded to the rear hull.

A late production model, with the two spare wheels mounted on the lower hull rear. There the two welded towing hooks, and the removal of the rear fender is also visible: Source.
Interior differences were not recorded, but there is always a possibility that there were some minor changes. While the Hummel received a specially designed front hull crew compartment (driver and radio operator), this was never implemented on the Nashorn.
Other changes were connected to the running gear of the Panzer III and IV. The early production vehicles had drive sprocket taken from the Panzer III Ausf. E (type Z.W.38). The return rollers and the idlers were taken from Panzer IV Ausf.D and F. Later produced vehicles used the drive sprocket taken from Panzer III Ausf.H (or Ausf.J depending on the source). There is evidence that a number of vehicles were built using a combination of these components.
There were also field modifications. While most were minor, like adding an extra tool or supply box, others include additional frontal armor plates in hope of increasing the armor thickness.

Organization

The Germans originally planned to use the Nashorn equip the 10 vehicle-strong Kompanie in the Panzerjäger Abteilung of the Panzer Divisions. This was never implemented. Instead, Nashorns were given to independent Schwere (Heeres) Panzerjäger Abteilung (heavy anti-tank battalions) which were then, depending on the operational needs, temporarily attached to different Armee Korps. This was a standard German war practice with other rare armored vehicles (like Tiger or Ferdinands for example), who were also grouped into independent units. Only Corps and Army Headquarters had the authority to give such orders.
These Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung would be composed of 45 vehicles, divided into three Kompanie (companies) with 14 Nashorn each and a Stabskompanie with 3 vehicles. The Kompanies were again divided into Zuge (platoons), each with 4 vehicles and with 2 in the Command Platoon.

In combat

During the war, several Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung (short s.Pz.Jg.Abt) would be formed, including 560, 655, 525, 93, 88, 664, 519 and 424. Other smaller units were formed, including the Schwere Panzerjäger Ersatz 43 und Asbuildung Abteilung, s.Pz.Jg. Kompanie 669 and Panzerkompanie Kummersdorf. The only units to receive Nashorns were the 1st Panzer Division and possibly the Das Reich Division.

Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 560

The forming of s.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 and equipping it with the Nashorn was a slow process. The first six vehicles were received in February, followed by 24 in March, and the last 15 in May 1943. In preparation for the coming Kursk offensive, s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 was to be transported to Kharkiv in late April 1943. By the beginning of May 1943, the transportation of the unit was almost complete. In June, it was part of the Panzer Gruppe “Kempf”, but due to many mechanical problems, this unit was not ready for combat. While this unit did not see action during the battle for Kursk, it was busy defending the XXXXII Armee Korps’ (In September renamed into the 8th Armee) flanks from July onwards.

This vehicle had an early type travel lock that had to be released from outside. This vehicle belonged to s.Pz.Jg.Abt 560. It is on a train, possibly headed for the Eastern front. Source.
Throughout August, this unit also supported the 39th, 161st, and 282nd Infanterie Divisions. During this time, 14 vehicles were lost. s.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 would be used mostly in defending actions against Soviet attacks until the end of 1943.
Thanks to constant reinforcement (with 5 vehicles in September, October, November, and 4 in February 1944), s.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 managed to maintain almost full combat strength throughout 1943, although not all the vehicle were always operational. For example, on 31st October 1943, there were 39 vehicles in the unit, with only 8 operational and the remaining in various state of repair. By the end of 1943, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 reported having destroyed around 251 enemy tanks.
In January 1944, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 participated in the German defense of the city of Kirovograd (currently known as Kropyvnytskyi). In early February, this unit began a slow withdrawal toward Mielau in order to be requipped with the new Jagdpanther. By March, it was still engaged on the Eastern front under the LVII Pz.Korps, losing 16 Nashorn. By this time, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 had only 4 operational and 10 non-operational vehicles remaining. In late April 1944, the withdrawal was completed and s.Pz.Jg.Abt 560 was moved to Mielau.

Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 655

Another unit equipped with Nashorns was s.Pz.Jg.Abt “Stalingrad”. In April 1943, this unit was renamed s.Pz.Jg.Abt 655. For the creation of this unit, the remaining elements from Panzerjäger Abteilungen 521, 611, and 670 were used. It is for this reason that its Kompanie were named after these Abteilungen instead of the ordinary 1st, 2nd, and 3rd designations.
In April 1944, these would be renamed to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Kompanie. In April 1943, this unit had 35 vehicles. The last 10 vehicles arrived in May. The unit assembly and training was carried out until June 1943. By the time of the Kursk offensive s.Pz.Jg.Abt 655 was part of the Heeresgruppe mitte, but was not directly involved in combat. It would, however, be engaged with the Second Armee in trying to stop the Soviet attacks. This defense proved to be unsuccessful and the unit was forced to pull out in the direction of the Desna and Dnieper rivers. In a report dated 1st July, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 655 was noted to have lost eight vehicles: one to a mine, and the remaining seven during an air raid. All these were recovered and sent to Germany for repair. From November to the end of 1943, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 655 was mostly used in support of different Panzer Division, both in the attack and in the defense, around the Pripet Marshes.
The Nashorns proved to be effective, as can be seen in the report of Kompanie 521 during a combat operation defending Orel in mid July 1943, when following vehicles were claimed to have been destroyed: 1 x KV-2, 19 x KV-1s, 430 x T-34s, 1 x M3 Lee, 1 x T-60, 5 x T-70s, and 1 rocket launcher mounted on a tank chassis, with the loss of only two Nashorns. These numbers are just claims and were probably larger than reality.
s.Pz.Jg.Abt 655 received around 33 Nashorns as replacements (8 in July, 5 in October, November and December, and the last 10 in March 1944). This unit was even above the official combat strength with 47 operational (and 1 in repair) vehicles during June-July 1944.
In February, it was stationed in Belorussia in support of the elements of the Second Armee. By the end of May 1944, this unit was transferred to the 4th Panzer Armee, and it would see action in Ukraine on the Vistula river and at Lublin. In August 1944, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 655’s 1st and 2nd Kompanie were moved from Heeresgruppe Nord Ukraine to the training center at Mielau to be equipped with Jagdpanters and Jagdpanzer IVs.


Sd.Kfz.164 of the 2nd Kompanie of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 560, summer 1943.

Nashorn of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 519, Group center, Vitebsk area, Russia, winter 1943-44.

Nashorn of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 88, Russia.

Another Nashorn of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 88, Russia, 1944.

Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 525 in Italy, summer 1944.

Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn in Italy, schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 525.

Schwere Panzerjäger Kompanie 669

The 3rd Kompanie of s.Pz.Jg.Abt 655 was equipped with all remaining Nashorns (possibly around 24 vehicles). The unit was renamed to Einsatz Kompanie 655 and was stationed on the Eastern Front. It would remain on the Eastern Front supporting the 4th Panzer Armee near the Sandomierz bridgehead until late 1944. In November 1944, it was renamed to s.Pz.Jg.Kp 669. The combat strength of the s.Pz.Jg.Kp 669 was around 20 Nashorns (December 1944). During the Soviet offensive in January 1945, s.Pz.Jg.Kp 669 was part of 17th Panzer Division, suffering heavy losses during the battle for Kielce. In February 1945, it was reinforced with 13 new vehicles. The unit met its end during the battle for Prague in May 1945, when it surrendered to the Soviets.

Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 525

Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 525 was formed in August 1939 as Pz.Abw.Abt 525. During the attack on the West, this unit was equipped with 88 mm Flak 18 gun for use against tanks and bunkers. In France, it was used to attack parts of the Maginot line. Later, it would see action in the Balkans and in the Soviet Union. In late April 1943, it was ordered to reequip s.Pz.Jg.Kp 525 with Nashorns in a standard 45-vehicles organization. It was moved to Magdeburg where it was to be supplied with these vehicles, and by July 1943 the assembly of the 45 Nashorns was completed.
It was originally allocated to the 26th Panzer Division, but due to the need for crew training, the unit was only combat-ready by the beginning of August 1943. In preparation for the German occupation of Italy, s.Pz.Jg.Kp 525 was transported to northern Italy, but due to the Allied offensive, the unit was repositioned to the south. It was attached to different units (like the 90th Panzer Grenadier Division or 371 Infantry Division) and was mostly used for coastal defense. During December 1943, it was stationed near Rome as part of the 3rd Grenadier Division. From January 1944, it was engaged in defense of Cassino, where four Nashorns were destroyed and three damaged, but later repaired. Thanks to well selected and favorable combat positions, they managed to take advantage of their strong guns, even achieving a claimed kill from more than 2,800 m against an Allied Sherman tank. The 1st and 2nd Kompanie would see action during the Battle of Anzio in early 1944. In May, s.Pz.Jg.Kp 525 was again stationed around Cassino.
s.Pz.Jg.Kp 525 suffered losses during the Battle for Pontecorvo, where the Canadian Allied soldiers managed to capture one and destroy three vehicles. s.Pz.Jg.Kp 525 also saw action against Polish forces (part of the 2nd Corps) in August 1944, when one was captured and two destroyed.
On 31st August, s.Pz.Jg.Kp 525 was to be reinforced with Jagdpanthers and thus form a gemischte Jagdpanther-Abteilung. For this reason, the 1st Kompanie was sent to Mielau for rearming. The 1st Kompanie vehicles were given to the 2nd and 3rd Kompanies and these two would remain in Italy supporting the 10th Armee. In April 1945, what remained of the 2nd Kompanie was supporting the 26th Panzer Division and the 3rd Kompanie was supporting the 29th Grenadier Division. Many more vehicles were captured by the Allies during the German retreat across the River Po, as a number of Nashorns were abandoned by the Germans.
In late November 1944, the 1st Kompanie was in the process of reorganization, but due to the rapid development on the front, it was sent to reinforce Kapmfgruppe Fuehter-Begleit-Brigade. It was equipped with 10 Nashorns in late November 1944.

Schwere Heeres Panzerjäger Abteilung 93

The original name of this unit was Pz.Abw.Abt. 23 and it was formed in 1935. The name was changed to s.Pz.Jg.Abt 93 in October 1942. It was part of the 26th Panzer Division, stationed in France for training and rest. In June 1943, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 93 was chosen to be equipped with 45 Nashorns, and this process was completed in the period from July to September 1943. As the 26th Panzer Division was needed on the Italian front and s.Pz.Jg.Abt 93 was combat-ready, it was decided to detach it from this unit and attach it to the 7th Amree in Western France.
It was, from September 1943, engaged with Army Group “South” on the Eastern front for the support of the German retreat at the Dnieper River. and was used to support the German attack near Kryvyi Rog in late October. In early 1944, it supported the retreat of the 24th Division and the 6th Army. In early 1944, this part of the front was quiet, until 20th August when the Soviets launched a large offensive. Most elements of s.Pz.Jg.Abt 93 were lost together with the 6th Army near Chișinău (Kishinev). The 2nd Kompanie would survive and would be used to support s.Pz.Jg.Abt 525 in defense of the Rhine river. The final fate of what remained of s.Pz.Jg.Abt 93 is not clear.

Actions of the Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 93 and 525

s.Pz.Jg.Abt 93 and 525 were sent to the Western Front in order to reinforce the German forces which were desperately trying to stop the Allied advance to the Rhine. s.Pz.Jg.Abt 525 (1st Kompanie) was, in November 1944, equipped with 10 Nashorns while s.Pz.Abt 93 (2nd Kompanie) was, by December, equipped with just 12 Nashorns.
Both Abteilung 525 and 93 were attached to the 106th Panzer Brigade and operated in the Kolmar pocket until late December 1944 while suffering no losses. On 29th (or 27th depending on the sources) December, both were used to support Jagdpanthers from s.Pz.Jg.Abt 654. Later in January, they were used to reinforce the StuG.Brigade 280 until February. By that time, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 525 had suffered such heavy losses, that what was left was incorporated into s.Pz.Jg.Abt 93. In February, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 93 was renamed to s.Pz.Jg. Kompanie 93 due to its small size. By the end of February 1945, the Kompanie had only 10 vehicles left and was supporting 106th Armored Brigade near Cologne. In March, one Nashorn managed to destroy the new American T26E3 (at a distance of 500 m) tank near the town of Niehl. The Kompanie finally met its fate in April 1945, when it surrendered in the Ruhr area.

Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 519 and 664

Another unit to be equipped with Nashorns was s.Pz.Jg.Abt 519, which was formed in late August 1943. By November 1943, the last vehicle was received and the unit had 45 operational Nashorns. It was repositioned to the Eastern Front, where it supported the 3rd Panzer Armee. One of the first actions was the battle for Vitebsk, where the advancing Soviet forces were stopped. It would be stationed there from December 1943 to January 1944, during which time it helped repel many Soviet attacks. During the period from 10th December 1943 to 24th February 1944, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 519 claimed to have destroyed some 290 enemy tanks with the loss of only 6 vehicles, of which 4 were destroyed by their crews (due to a lack of towing vehicles).
From January to June, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 519 saw very few combat actions and was part of the 3rd Armee. From June 1944, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 519 was used to support the 4th Armee in Belorussia. By the end of June, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 519 claimed to have destroyed around 112 Soviet tanks with some losses. To replace the losses, this unit received 15 new vehicles (5 in March, April, and June). Due to the following fighting in July 1944, the unit lost many of its Nashorns. What was left of s.Pz.Jg.Abt 519 was used to support the Panzerkampfgruppe Hoppe by the middle of July. By August 1944, like the previous units, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 519 was also sent to Mielau to be equipped with Jagdpanthers, but was also equipped with StuG III.

Late production version somewhere on the eastern front. The crew observe their surroundings for possible enemy targets. The Nashorn is positioned between the two wooden houses which serve as makeshift camouflage. This vehicle belongs to s.Pz.Jg.Ab 519’s commanding Kompanie. Source.
Its remaining vehicles were given to s.Pz.Jg.Abt 664 which was equipped with towed 88 mm PaK 43 guns. This unit never achieved a full combat strength, with only around 12 vehicles being used (October 1944). It was engaged with HeeresGruppe Mitte, but was lost in late January 1945 on the Eastern Front.
Interesting to note is that Nashorn crews from s.Pz.Jg.Abt 519 had a habit of naming their (and paining it on the vehicle) vehicles after East German cities (like Pommern) or animals (Puma, Tiger, etc).

Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 88

s.Pz.Jg.Abt 88 was originally formed in late October 1940, and by late 1943 was mostly engaged on the Eastern Front. In late November, it was moved to Mielau to be equipped with Nashorns and for crew training. The unit reaches its full combat strength by January 1944 but was not ready for combat operation until February 1944.
By early 1944, s.Pz.Jg.Abt 88 was part of the 1st Panzer Armee on the Eastern Front. s.Pz.Jg.Abt 88 was heavily engaged during the battle of Kamienets-Podolsky. Later, in March/April 1944, this unit supported the 6th and 17th Panzer Divisions. An interesting fact is that, in May 1944, one s.Pz.Jg.Kp 88 Nashorn managed to destroy a new Soviet tank IS-2 in somewhat comic circumstances. This vehicle had actually been captured by the Germans and was in the process of being towed to the rear when it was spotted by the Nashorns. They immediately destroyed it without knowing it was actually captured by their comrades, although it is unlikely that the soldiers towing their prize back were amused by this incident.
This unit suffered heavy losses during the support of the Army Group A, around Brody and Lvov. In order to replace the losses, it received 30 new vehicles in August 1944. The rest of the year, this unit was stationed near Miechow. From January 1945, it was engaged against the Soviets near Lisow and Kielce.
In late January, an unknown number of Nashorns from this unit were supporting the German defense of Preiswitz near the village of Gieraltowice. During these actions, some Nashorns from s.Pz.Jg.Abt 88 were equipped with experimental night vision equipment, but in what numbers and how effective this system was is unknown. In March, the remnants of s.Pz.Jg.Abt 88 supported the 17th Armored Division near Lauban. s.Pz.Jg.Abt 88 would fight on until it surrendered in Prague in May 1945.

Schwere Panzerjäger Ersatz 43 and Asbuildung Abteilung

These two units were originally used for training and as reinforcements and were stationed at Spremberg. In desperation, both units were mobilized in the defense of the Oder River, where both would be lost. The number of vehicles that these units had is unknown.

The use of Nashorn in other units.

Panzerkompanie Kummersdorf was formed using the vehicle present at the Kummersdorf Weapons Testing Center, including at least one Nashorn. An unknown number of Nashorns were allocated to the 1st Panzer Division in December 1944. They were used to reinforce Pz.Jg.Abt 37, which had lost most of its Marder anti-tank vehicles. By April 1945, there was still an unknown number of Nashorns operational with this unit. It is possible that at least 12 Nashorns were given to the Das Reich Division in late December 1944, but precise information is not available.
By the end of 1944, there were still some 130-165 operational Nashorns in total (depending on the source). Most were located on the Eastern front, with smaller numbers to the West.

Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung/Kompanie 424

The origin of this unit is not clear, and depending on the sources it is either marked as an Abteilung or a Kompanie. What is known is that s.Pz.Jg.Ab 424 was mostly destroyed in early 1945 near the Kielce area. The remaining elements of this unit (with only two Nashorns) were used to defend the Order river.

Combat effectiveness

The Nashorn, due to its powerful gun, could engage any Allied or Soviet tank at great ranges. The best tactics when employing Nashorns was to select a good and well-camouflaged combat position some distance behind the main front line and with a good field of visibility. From such positions, its gun could destroy enemy armored vehicles with less danger from retaliation fire. Of course, this was the best-case scenario, which could not always be implemented due to many factors like terrain or inadequate leadership.
As the Nashorns would be thrown into areas with expected heavy clashes, the local commanders would sometimes used them in a role or in a way for which these vehicles were not designed and suitable for. This inevitably led to unnecessary losses. In order to provide many German units with strong anti-tank firepower, the Nashorn units were sometimes divided into smaller groups which reduced their combat potential. This also caused logistical and communication problems which could not be easily solved. Another problem was the positioning of these vehicles too close to the front or the inadequate scouting of enemy forces.
To address potential misuse of the Nashorn, instruction sheets were given to the troops (at the battalion level) of the 3rd Armee. These sheets included instructions on how to properly use the new Nashorns. It indicated that s.Pz.Jg.Ab was to be used as mobile defense units against mass enemy armor. They should be used as Abteilung or Kompanie strength, and to avoid distribution in smaller groups. This could cause many potential communication, ammunition and maintenance problems. Due to its weak armor, the enemy should be engaged at ranges greater than 1 km, and the Nashorn should never be used as an assault weapon (like StuG III for example). The Nashorn should attack enemy vehicles from well-camouflaged positions. The local commander should receive advice from the Nashorn commanders on the proper use of the vehicle.
Good cooperation between Nashorn units and the units they were attached to wasn’t always possible. There were situations when Nashorn commanders refused to execute the orders given to them by local commanders. This was the case of the Kompanie 521 (part of s.Pz.Jg.Ab 655), which refused to attack a well-defended position (with 20 to 30 tanks) while advancing over 2 km of open ground. The proper use of the Nashorns was demonstrated by the Zug from Kompanie 521, when on 3rd July, 12 KV-1s and 4 T-34s were destroyed with the loss of only one Nashorn. The Nashorns were well positioned and camouflaged, which played a great part in this action.

Due to its weak armor, the Nashorn provided only limited protection and could be easily destroyed by enemy fire. Source: Pinterest

The Nashorn’s best defense was a well-selected combat position and good camouflage. This vehicle belongs to s.Pz.Jg.Ab 525 (February 1944). Source.
Scouting was also essential for the Nashorn units, as they lacked any proper vehicles to do the job. Usually, the Nashorn commanders would go on foot to the designated area of attack. What is interesting is that (depending on the combat situation), the commanders of the Nashorn vehicles would give orders to their crew from outside the vehicle during a combat operation. This was done so that the Nashorn commander could have a better understanding on the current combat situation, in this instance, a key importance was that the commander had to be in close proximity of his vehicle. As the Nashorns were used mostly as fire support from the distance this was possible to be achieved without any major problems.
Thanks to its deadly gun, the Nashorn could effectively destroy enemy tanks from ranges above 2 km. In one case, it was reported that a T-34 was destroyed from a range of 4.2 km! It is important to note that the Nashorn would rarely engage at ranges greater of 2 km for several reasons. While the gun was powerful enough, there was a problem with potentially wasting precious ammunition, as the hit probability was significantly lower at such distances. Ammunition production could not reach the demands and the general low ammo count that could be carried inside the vehicle compounded this issue. Another problem was that the sights would be slightly knocked out of alignment during driving, which would affect the precision of the gun, especially at longer ranges. There are other facts that also had to be taken into account like the wind, the quality of ammunition, and a bit of luck etc. Hitting enemy vehicles at ranges of over 3 km was an exception rather than a rule, and in most cases, crews avoided shooting at these ranges.
One of the best known Nashorn aces was Lieutenant Albert Ernst who served with s.Pz.Jag.Abt.519. During the fighting on 19th December 1943, he and his crew managed to destroy 8 Soviet T-34s. Later that month, they destroyed another 14 T-34s tanks with just 21 rounds of ammunition. By 7th February 1944, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross for destroying 25 enemy tanks and many anti-tank guns. In the summer of 1944, he was transferred to s.Pz.Jg.Abt 654.

Conclusion

With the creation of the independent Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung equipped with Nashorns, the Germans had units that could provide support and increase the offensive capabilities of any units attached to them. This also created some issues, the most common of which was the misuse of these vehicles by the local commanders.
During its operational use, the Nashorn proved to be an effective anti-tank vehicle with an excellent gun, but it was not perfect. The main drawback (like all similar German open-topped tank destroyers) was the lack of armor. It was also a relatively large vehicle and thus difficult to camouflage properly and suffered from a low ammunition count, and a small traverse arc. Another significant issue was constituted by the great number of engine breakdowns due to overheating.

Surviving vehicles

Today, there are only three surviving Nashorn vehicles. One is located in the Kubinka Museum in Russia and another one is at the U.S. Army Center of Military History Storage Facility. The third vehicle is a part of a private collection in the Netherlands. It was a fully operational vehicle, but was badly damaged in a fire in 2019, and is currently under restoration.

8.8 cm PaK 43/1 auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw III und IV (Sf) Sd.Kfz. 16 specifications

Dimensions Length 8.44 m, Width 2.95 m, Height 2.94 m
Weight 24 tonnes
Armor Hull front 30 mm, side and rear 20 mm, top and bottom 10 mm,
Superstructure 10 mm all around and the gun shield 10 mm.
Crew 5 (Gunner, loader, driver, radio operator and commander)
Propulsion Maybach HL120TRM
Speed 40 km/h, 15-28 km/h (cross country)
Range 260 km, 130 km (cross country)
Armament 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 L/71
Gun Traverse 30°
Elevation -5° to +20°
Total production 394

Sources

Thomas L.J and Hilary L.D. (2006), Panzer Tracts No.7-3, Panzerjager Panzer Tracts
David Doyle (2005), German Military Vehicles, KP Books
Alexander Ludeke, Waffentechnik im Zweiten Weltkrieg, Parragon books
Duško Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
Tony G. and Detlev T. (2000) Nashorn 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 (L/71) auf Fgst.Pz.kpfw.III/IV (Sf), Nuts and bolt Vol. 14
Janusz L. (2010) Nashorn, Tank power Vol. XCIII, Wudawnictwo Militaria.
Ian V. Hogg (1975). German Artillery of World War Two, Purnell Book Services Ltd.
Peter C. and Terry G. (2008) Enzyklopadie Deutscher waffen 1939-1945 Handwaffen, Artilleries, Beutewaffen, Sonderwaffen.

Pictures:


Crew working inside the Nashorn. The crew member on the right, behind the gun, is the gunner. Behind him, on the left of the image, are the commander and, in the foreground, is the loader. The 88 mm horizontal sliding block mechanism is seen here. Source.

The large size of the 88 mm ammunition is evident here. Source.

When not expecting to go into action, the gun opening was covered in order to avoid getting dust into the chamber. Source.

Rearview of an earlier production vehicle. The large wheel inside the crew compartment was a part of the rear travel lock mechanism. Later built vehicles did not have this system. Source.

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Panzer IV/70 (V)

ww2 german tanks Nazi Germany (1944) Tank Destroyer – 930-950 built

During the Second World War, the Germans developed a large number of different Jagdpanzer designs. Some of these were hastily designed and made, some were temporary solutions, and there were also those which were specifically designed for the role of Jagdpanzer. The latter is the case with the late-war Panzer IV/70 (V). It was well protected, armed with a powerful gun and, with a low profile, it proved to be a deadly weapon. However, the effect of this vehicle on the battlefields of Europe in 1944 was limited, as production began late that year and very few reached the front lines.

First Jagdpanzer Designs

Even before the war, the famous German commander Heinz Guderian had predicted the need for highly mobile self-propelled anti-tank vehicles later known as Panzerjäger or Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer or hunter). The terms Jagdpanzer and Panzerjäger were, according to Germany military terminology and concepts, essentially one and the same. After the war, however, the Jagdpanzer term would be used to describe the fully enclosed tank destroyers while the Panzerjäger would be used for the open-topped tank destroyer vehicles.
In March of 1940, the first attempt to build such a vehicle was made. This was the 4.7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw. I, generally known today simply as the Panzerjäger I. It was more or less a simple improvisation, made by using a modified Panzer I Ausf.B tank hull and by mounting a 4.7 cm PaK (t) with a small shield on it. Later, during the attack on the Soviet Union and the battles in North Africa, the need for effective anti-tank vehicles became of greater importance for the Germans. The appearance of the towed 7.5 cm PaK 40 in increasing numbers somewhat solved this problem, but the main issue with this gun was its lack of mobility.
The need for a mobile anti-tank vehicle would lead to the development of the “Marder” series, which was based on several different tank chassis and armed with powerful and efficient anti-tank guns. Captured tanks and other vehicles would also be reused for this purpose. In 1944, the Nashorn, armed with the excellent 88 mm Pak 43, was put into production. But most of these vehicles were hastily designed and built and, while they did the job, they were far from perfect. These vehicles were built by using different tank chassis and installing a gun with a limited traverse in an open-topped superstructure. The two main issues were the great height, which made them extremely difficult to camouflage, and the general lack of an effective armor design.
The German infantry support self-propelled assault gun, the Sturmgeschütz, or simply StuG, (based on the Panzer III) proved to have great potential when used as Jagdpanzers. They had relatively good armor, a low profile, and could be armed with the longer barrelled 7.5 cm gun. The mass-produced StuG III Ausf.G armed with the longer 7.5 cm gun (L/48) was able to efficiently fight almost any Allied tank up to the end of the war. The StuG vehicles were also much easier to build than any German tank. In 1942, the first plans to equip the StuG with a stronger gun and armor were made. These would eventually lead to the development of the Panzer IV/70 (V) in late 1944.

Early Development of the Jagdpanzer IV

The story of the Panzer IV/70 (V) actually began in September 1942, when the Waffenamt issued a request for developing a new design of Sturmgeschütz – the Neuer Sturmgeschütze (or ‘Sturmgeschütze neue Art’ depending on the source) series. It 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 and a weight of up to 26-tonnes. According to original plans, a completely new chassis was to be developed but, due to the lack of industrial capacity, the Panzer IV tank chassis was chosen instead. During 1942, there were many tests of different designs for the new Jagdpanzer based on the StuG III design. At the same time, the firm of Alkett tested the installation of the StuG III superstructure on the Panzer IV tank chassis armed with the 7.5 cm L/70 gun (Gerät No.820). One was also fitted with a 10.5 cm gun and there was even a proposal to test the installation of an 88 mm gun. As this modification proved to be somewhat complicated and was not feasible for production in the near future, a new solution was needed. There were also proposals to combine some components from the Panzer III, IV, and the VK16.02 ‘Leopard’, but nothing came of this.
More extensive work on a new vehicle (based on the Panzer IV Ausf. H tank chassis) was carried out by the Vogtlandische Maschinenfabrik AG of Plauen (VOMAG) in early 1943, under the designation Gerät No.821. The wooden mockup was completed by May 1943 and the final prototype was ready by end of the same year. Adolf Hitler liked the new Jagdpanzer IV design and ordered that mass production should begin as soon as possible.
As already mentioned, the Jagdpanzer IV was based on the Panzer IV tank chassis with the turret and the top of the hull removed and replaced with a simple, easy to build, but highly-angled armored hull. The rear engine compartment was almost the same with minimal changes (the engine was also the same) but the original plans for the armament and armor had to be changed. There were inadequate numbers of the 7.5 cm L/70 guns available for the design, so the shorter L/48 had to be used instead. The maximum front armor was 60 mm instead of 100 mm but placed at a high angle which provided good protection.
In general, this vehicle had more or less the same operational combat characteristics as the already produced StuG III anti-tank version. Both had the same gun, but the Jagdpanzer IV had a more effective and much simpler armor design. While an effective tank destroyer, it could be considered a waste of time and resources as the StuG III did the same job and was already in production. Even the Inspector-General of the Panzertruppen, Heinz Guderian, was against the new Jagdpanzer IV vehicle from the start, due to it being so similar to the StuG III and as it was draining significant and necessary resources needed for the Panzer IV production.

The Jagdpanzer IV was armed with a 7.5 cm PaK 39 L/48 and protected with 60 mm frontal armor. Source
The Jagdpanzer IV would be produced from January to August of 1944 with some 769 to 784 vehicles built. The production was stopped in August as the new better armed and armored Panzer IV/70 (V) version was ready for production.

The Development History of the Panzer IV/70 (V)

In a conference held in late January 1944, Hitler himself urged for future development and rearmament of the Jagdpanzer IV with the more powerful 7.5 cm L/70 gun. Vomag was responsible for the implementation and realization of this task. One Jagdpanzer IV prototype (serial num. 320162) was rearmed with the 7.5 cm L/70 StuK 42 (SturmKanone) (also known as Pak 42 (PanzerabwehrKanone) gun) and had its frontal armor increased from 60 mm to 80 mm for testing in early 1944. These tests proved that the installation of the new gun in the Jagdpanzer IV was feasible and without major complications.
Photographs of this prototype were presented to Hitler in early April 1944, and the prototype vehicle was demonstrated to him on 20th April 1944 (his birthday). Hitler was excited about this vehicle and immediately ordered the beginning of mass production with some 800 Panzer IV/70 (V) vehicles per month. These numbers were never achieved, and the greatest monthly production reached just 185 vehicles.

This is the Panzer IV/70 (V) prototype (Fgst.Nr. 320162), it can be identified by its front rubber wheels, different gun mantlet design and by the added welded round armor plate over the left mounted machine gun port. The Panzer IV/70 (V) prototype at first did not have the gun travel lock but, due to the gun weight, it was later added. Source
At the same time, Alkett made attempts to increase the number of produced vehicles by making the whole superstructure design simpler and easier for production. This vehicle was known under the designation Panzer IV/70 (A), but only 278 would be built.
In July 1944, Hitler gave orders to terminate the Panzer IV production in favor of the Panzer IV/70 (V) and Panzer IV/70 (A) based on the fact that the Panzer IV was reaching its developmental peak and had few options available for improving its overall performance. The whole conversion process was to be completed by February 1945. As the German army was lacking sufficient numbers of operational tanks, this order was never fully implemented and the Panzer IV remained in production until the end of the war.

The Panzer IV/70 (V) was essentially the same vehicle as the Jagdpanzer IV but had thicker frontal armor and was armed with the longer gun. Source

Origin of the Panzer IV/70 (V) Name

By Hitler’s direct orders from 18th July 1944, this vehicle was officially designated as Panzer IV lang (V). The capital letter ‘V’ is for the vehicle’s manufacturer and designer, Vomag. In order to avoid any confusion with Panzer IV tanks and the previous L/48 tank hunter version, the German troops on the front referred to this vehicle as Panzer IV/70 (V) (the number 70 stood for the barrel length) and this designation was even officially adopted by the Heeres Waffenamt in November 1944. In some sources, this vehicle is also known as Jagdpanzer IV/70 (V). According to some sources, due to the vehicle’s slower speed and movement, the crews gave this vehicle the nickname “Guderian Ente” (Guderian’s Duck). It should be noted that, in German, ‘Ente’ not only means duck, but also urine bottle, which is also claimed to have been the reason the Panzer IV/70V received the name “Guderian Ente”.

Specification

Visually, the Panzer IV/70(V) was almost the same as the previous Jagdpanzer IV version, the most obvious difference being the length of the main gun and the added travel-lock. The Panzer IV/70(V) was built by using the Panzer IV tank chassis (some Ausf. H but mostly Ausf. J), which was, for the most part, unchanged.
The lower front hull was redesigned and had a more sharply angled shape. The transmission and the two steering brake inspection hatches remained, but the brake inspection hatches were square shaped and smaller than on the Panzer IV tank. During the Panzer IV/70 (V) production run the air intake vents on the brake inspection hatches were removed.
The suspension and running gear were the same as those of the original Panzer IV, with no changes to their construction. They consisted of eight small road wheels (on each side) suspended in four pairs by leaf-spring units. There were two front drive sprockets, two rear idlers and eight return rollers in total. The numbers of return rollers was reduced to three per side later in the production run and replaced with steel ones. As the vehicle proved to be nose-heavy, the front two road wheels were prone to being rapidly worn out or, in some cases, they even malfunctioned. To solve this problem, most vehicles were to be equipped with two (or more) steel-tired and internally sprung wheels, from September 1944 onwards. From February/March 1945, on some vehicles, the rear idler was replaced with a cast one which was easier to make. The ground clearance was increased to 40 cm. If needed, the normal tracks could be replaced with wider ‘East tracks’ (Ostketten).
The engine was the Maybach HL 120 TRM which produced 265 hp@2600 rpm. The design of the engine compartment was unchanged. Maximum speed was 35 km/h (16 km/h cross country) with an operational range (with 470 l fuel) of 210 km. From September 1944 on, these vehicles were fitted with new flame dampening exhausts and mufflers (flammentoeter). The engine and the crew compartment were separated by a fire resistant and gas-tight armored firewall. In order to avoid any fire accidents, an automatic fire extinguisher system was installed in the engine compartment.
The Panzer IV/70 (V)’s new superstructure was well protected with its angled, thick and simple armor design. The angled shape of the superstructure provided thicker nominal armor and also increased the chance of deflecting enemy shots. This way, the need for more carefully machined armored plates (like on Panzer III or IV) was unnecessary. Also, by using larger one-piece metal plates, the structure avoided a lot of welding making it much stronger and also easier for production. The Panzer IV/70 (V) upper hull was built out of surface-hardened steel plates (Type E 22) manufactured by Witkowitzer Bergbau und Eisenhütten.
The Panzer IV/70 (V) upper front hull 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, the rear 20 mm and the bottom was 10 mm. The hull crew compartment had 20 mm of bottom armor. The upper superstructure frontal armor was 80 mm at a 50° angle (or 40° according to some sources), the sides were 40 mm at a 60° angle, the rear armor was 30 mm, and the top was 20 mm. The engine compartment design and armor was unchanged with 20 mm all around and 10 mm of top armor. Additional 5 mm thick armor plates were also provided for extra protection of the engine compartment sides.
The Panzer IV/70 (V) could be equipped with additional 5 mm thick armor plates (Schürzen) covering the side of the vehicle. In practice though, these would rarely last long and would simply fall off the vehicle during combat operations. Due to material shortages, by late 1944, stiff wire mesh panels (Thoma Schürzen) were used instead of the armor plates. These were much lighter and easier to make and most sources claim that it provided the same level of protection as the solid type. It is often mentioned that Schürzen were designed as protection against shape-charged weapons but they were actually designed to counter Soviet anti-tank rifle projectiles. Moreover, Steven Zaloga points out in ‘Bazooka vs. Panzer’ that a unit from the American 1st Armored Group in the Sarrebourg area tested the Bazooka against one Panzer IV equipped with stiff wire mesh panels similar to the Thoma Schürzen. The tests showed that the wire mesh panels did not offer any protection against shape-charged weapons.
One more line of protection was the possible application of Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste to counter magnetic anti-tank mines, but the use of this paste would be abandoned in the late stages of the war.

The Schürzen side plates, added for extra protection, can be observed in this photo, as well as the vehicle’s small size. The gun lock, in this case made out of solid metal, is also noticeable. Source
The Panzer IV/70 (V) tank destroyer’s main armament was the 7.5 cm StuK 42 L/70 cannon, also known as the 7.5 cm PaK 42 L/70. This gun was more or less the same one used on the German Panther tank. The elevation of the 7.5 cm StuK 42 L/70 was from –5° to +15° and the traverse was 20°. The main gun was not placed at the vehicle’s centre, but was instead moved some 20 cm to the right side. One 80 mm thick cast gun mantlet acted as extra protection for the gun. The main weapon was produced by Gustloff-Werke (Weimar) and Škoda (Pilsen). A hydro-pneumatic equilibrator was provided for better gun balance and one iron counter-weight was added at the end of the recoil guard. To avoid damaging the main gun when on the move, a heavy travel-lock was provided. In order to free the gun, the gun operator had only 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 main gun was not equipped with a muzzle brake. The first Jagdpanzer IV produced were equipped with muzzle brakes but, during combat action, the crews often removed them due to the dust clouds created during firing. This reduced the visibility but more importantly gave away the vehicle’s position to the enemy. From May 1944 on, the muzzle brake was removed from production and this would be also carried on with the later Panzer IV/70 (V). As this gun required a large amount of room and the use of large one-piece ammunition, the Panzer IV/70 (V) interior was very cramped and the ammunition capacity was only 55 rounds (or 60 depending on the source). Around 34 were armor-piercing (AP) (PzGr 39/42 or 40/42), while the remaining 21 were high-explosive (HE) (SpGr 42). The ammunition was stored along both wall sides and held in ammunitions racks.
The secondary weapon used was the MG 42 machine gun with some 1,200 rounds of ammunition. Unlike most other German vehicles, a ball mount was not used on this vehicle. The machine gun port was instead protected with a movable hemispherical-shaped armored cover. The machine gun mount was located to the vehicle’s right side. The Panzer IV/70 (V) was also equipped with the Nahverteidigungswaffe (close defense weapon) with some 40 or more rounds of ammunition, located on the vehicle top and covered with a round armored cover.
Unknown numbers of late built vehicles were equipped with the ‘Vorsatz P’ curved muzzle attachment for the MP 43/44 (7.92 mm) assault rifles. The mounting for this weapon was placed on the loader’s hatch door and was operated by him. The last line of defense was the crew’s personal weapons.

The Vorsatz P curved muzzle attachment for the MP 43/44. Source
The four-man crew consisted of the commander, gunner, loader/radio operator, and the driver. The driver’s position was on the vehicle left front side but his view of the surrounding area was limited as he only had a front mounted periscope and a small periscope pointing to the right to see out of. Behind him was the gunner’s position, which was provided with an Sfl.ZF 1a gun sight for acquiring targets. This sight was linked to an Azimuth indicator, the purpose of which was to tell the gunner the precise and current position of the gun. When in use, the sight was projected through the sliding armored cover on the vehicle’s top armor. For operating the gun, there were two traverse hand wheels. The lower wheel was for the traverse and the upper one for the elevation. The gunner was also provided with a recoil shield, while the loader was not.
Behind these two was the commander’s position, which had a rotating periscope located in the escape hatch and one pointing to the left. The commander had a small additional hatch door for the use of a retractable Sfl.4Z telescope. The commander was also responsible for providing the loader with the ammunition located on the left side wall.
The last crew member was the loader, who was positioned on the vehicle’s right side. He operated the radio (Fu 5 radio set) which was located to the right rear and he also doubled as the MG 42 machine gun operator. There was a small opening located above the machine gun which provided the gun operator with a limited view of the front. When not in use, the machine gun could be pulled into a small travel lock which was connected to the vehicle’s roof. In that case, the machine gun port could be closed by pivoting the hemispherical-shaped armor cover. The use of this machine gun type is strange, as the usual hull mounted machine gun in all German armored vehicles was the MG 34. Nearly all periscopes were protected with an armored flap cover.
The crew could enter the vehicle through two hatches located at the top of the vehicle. There was an additional floor escape hatch door that could be used in case of emergency.
In the hope of removing any extra weight at the front, most spare parts and ancillary equipment were moved to the rear engine compartment. These included things such as spare tracks, wheels, repair tools, the fire extinguisher and crew extra equipment. Some vehicles had an armored and welded base for a 2-tonne crane added on the superstructure roof. The rear tow bars were changed with vertically positioned ones.
The dimensions were: length 8.5 m, width 3.2 m, and height 2 m (or length 8.58 m, width 3.17 m, and height 1.85 m according to other sources). Total combat weight was around 25.8 metric tons.


Two Panzer IV/70 (V) abandoned on the battlefield. The one in the background has a white sheet hanging from the gun. Source

Panzer IV/70 (V) Befehlswagen

An unknown number of Panzer IV/70 (V) were modified to be used as Befehlswagen (command vehicles). These vehicles had additional radio equipment installed, 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 (but some sources do not mention the fifth crew member). The Befehlswagen would also use a Sternantenne (star radio antenna) which was 1.4 m long and located on the left side of the engine compartment.

Production

Production was carried out by Vomag and, from November 1944 through April 1945, some 930 vehicles were built. Maximum production was achieved in January 1945, with 185 completed vehicles that month. Due to the bad situation in Germany, the production dropped rapidly in February to 135 vehicles, and dropped further to only 50 vehicles produced in March. The last 10 vehicles were to be completed in April, but it is possible that this was never achieved.
Like many other German military vehicles, authors cannot agree on precise production numbers. Most quote the figure of 930, while some, like Hilary Louis Doyle, quote 950 produced vehicles. According to Duško Nešić, some 940 were built, whereas Krzysztof M. and George P. estimate that between 930 to 940 vehicles were produced.

Organization

The Panzer IV/70 (V) would be used to equip many different German units. For Panzer and Panzer Grenadier Divisions, they were grouped into Panzerjäger Abteilungs. The Panzerjäger Abteilung usually had two Panzerjäger Companies. These Panzerjäger Companies were to be equipped with 10 to 14 Panzer IV/70 divided into three Platoons, with one to three vehicles assigned to the Company HQ. As the Panzer IV/70 did not reach the front in great numbers, these units were often below the officially prescribed combat strength.
The Panzer IV/70 (V) was also used to equip Kampfgruppen (Combat/battle groups). As ordered by Adolf Hitler (on July 2nd, 1944), small armored Kampfgruppe were to be formed. These would later be renamed to Panzer Brigaden. These groups were to be equipped with 30 to 40 tanks and self-propelled guns. As the Panzer IV/70 began to become available in sufficient numbers, it was also included in these units.

Although these vehicles were designed as tank destroyers with thick armor, their best defense was a well-selected and camouflaged position. Source

Jagdpanzer tactics

The term Jagdpanzer could be somewhat misleading. Despite the good frontal protection and the strong gun (in the case of this vehicle), its job was not to go on offensive hunts, either in the open or in urban areas, for enemy tanks. The Jagdpanzers were more of a defensive weapon concept, and their primary mission was to engage (if possible in great numbers) enemy tanks and to act as fire support at long ranges from carefully selected and well-camouflaged combat positions, usually on the flanks.
In offensive operations, they would support Panzer units from a safe distance and on the flanks. If the attack was successful, they were to move to new combat positions. In case of a failed attack or even in false retreat, they were to form a firing line in order to trap and destroy any enemy advancing armor units.

This vehicle, belonging to the 1st Panzerjäger Abteilung (1st Panzer Division), was pictured on the Western front in late 1944. Source
In support of the infantry, once the objective was captured, they were to remain there until that location was secure from any imminent enemy counterattack. After this was achieved, they were to return to the rear and wait for future orders. In the case of enemy attacks, they were to provide long-range support fire against enemy heavy armor. In retreats, the Jagdpanzers would be used to form defensive positions in the new rear lines.
Engagement with enemy tanks at close range (especially from the sides) was very dangerous for such vehicles, as they lacked a fully traversing turret, meaning they could not quickly respond to enemy movements. For example, in urban (especially in destroyed cities) areas, the lack of a fully traversing turret could prevent them from engaging enemy armor that got too close, as these hostile tanks had a clear advantage with their turret. Despite the Panzer IV/70 (V)’s excellent frontal armor, the sides and rear were weak. The greatest defense was a well-selected combat position, which any good Jagdpanzer commander had to learn to take advantage of.

A heavily destroyed Panzer IV/70 (V). This was likely the result of an internal explosion. Source

In combat

The first units to be equipped with the new Panzer IV/70 (V) were the 105th and 106th Panzer Brigades in early August 1944. These two units were engaged against Allied forces on the Western Front. These were followed (also in August) by the 11.Abt. Panzer Regiment “Großdeutschland” Führer Begleit Brigade, 107th Panzer Brigade, Führer Grenadier Brigade, 109th Panzer Brigade. 110th Panzer Brigade, each equipped with 11 Panzer/70 (V) vehicles.
Despite the production of nearly 1000 vehicles, the distribution process to the front line units was too slow. This was mostly due to the increased number of Allied bombing and ground attack actions in Germany, which caused huge problems for transporting these vehicles (and any other) to the front. The Panzer IV/70 (V) began to reach front line units in great numbers only from January 1945 on, and by that time, it was too late. The largest concentration of Panzer IV/70 (V) (137 vehicles) for one combat action was during the last German offensive operation on the Western front, during the fighting in the Ardennes in December of 1944.
While the Panzer IV/70 (V) was a tank destroyer, it was also sometimes used in other roles, such as an assault gun. When acting in this role without infantry support, it proved to be an easy target for enemy anti-tank (bazooka armed) teams, as shown during an attack on the Krinkelt-Rocherath villages. The Panzer IV/70 (V) from the 12th SS Panzerjäger Abteilung (12th SS Panzer Division “Hitlerjugend”) were used to attack elements from the American 2nd Infantry Division which was defending the Krinkelt-Rocherath villages and the Lausdell crossroads. The first attacks on the American position at Lausdell crossroads were made with the support of two Panzer IV/70 (V) companies on 17th December 1944. The Americans had no armor available at this point, but had artillery support and placed large numbers of anti-tank mines. During the attack on the Lausdell crossroads, several Panzer IV/70 (V) (from the 2nd Company) were leading the attack supported by small Panzergrenadier infantry groups, which were hiding on the Panzer IV/70 (V) engine decks. Once the German vehicles were spotted, they were immediately bombarded by the American artillery. One vehicle was destroyed by an artillery hit, and two were immobilized by mines. One immobilized vehicle was firing at the American positions, but was eventually destroyed with a combination of thermite grenades and a fuel canister. Two more Panzer IV/70 (V) were destroyed by bazooka teams. After regrouping, the Germans repeated the attack later that day but it was met with heavy artillery fire and between four to seven armored vehicles (of an unknown type) were reported destroyed. One last attack attempt was made at 22.30 hrs, but with the support of artillery, this attack was also repulsed.
The following day, the Germans attacked the Krinkelt-Rocherath villages with elements from the 12th SS Panzerjäger Abteilung 2nd company with the support of SS Panzergrenadier 25th Regiment. The American positions guarding the first line defense trenches were overrun. The Panzer IV/70 (V) that entered the village managed to destroy three M4 tanks. There was heavy fighting that lasted the whole day, but the Germans withdrew the next morning expecting reinforcements and supplies. The next day they continued with the attacks, but, in the end, they could not breach this line and suffered heavy losses (one Panzer IV/70 (V) was lost together with several Panzer IV and Panther tanks). The 12th SS Panzerjäger Abteilung, at the start of the Ardennes offensive, had 22 Panzer IV/70 (V) but had lost three vehicles with seven damaged, although they were subsequently recovered and repaired.

Behind the left Panther we can see a Panzer IV/70 (V) lost during the battle for the Krinkelt-Rocherath villages. Source

The Americans 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 Panzer IV/70 (V) also saw some heavy action on the Eastern Front, where it also proved to be an effective tank destroyer, as in the case of schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 563. The schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 563 received 18 Jagdpanthers and 22 Panzer IV/70 (V) divided into two companies on 20th January 1945. The next day, this unit was sent to Allenstain in Poland. The 563rd participated in heavy fighting in Poland, where it claimed to have destroyed some 58 enemy tanks with the loss of four Panzer IV/70 (V) and one Jagdpanther during a period of 10 days. By the beginning of February 1945, this unit was a mere shadow of its former strength with only 5 Jagdpanthers and 3 Panzer IV/70 (V) left. All remaining vehicles had to be abandoned or destroyed by their crews due to a lack of fuel, spare parts and the muddy terrain.
Over thirty different German units were equipped, usually with about 11 such vehicles each. These would be used to support many German front line Divisions, including 2nd SS Panzer Division, 1st SS Panzer Division, 7th, 8th, 13th, and 21st Panzer Divisions, 20th Panzergrenadier Division, Panzer Abteilung “Jüteborg”, 510th Heeres Panzerjäger Abteilung and others.
Some StuG-equipped units (Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung) were reinforced with IV/70 (V) vehicles, like the 226th and 210th Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung. There was also a last-ditch attempt to form a mixed company equipped with Panzer IV/70 (V) and (A) prototypes at Kümmersdorf on 15th February 1945. One of the last units to receive 10 new built Panzer IV/70 (V) was the 33rd Panzer Regiment from the 9th Panzer Division on 17th April 1945.
By early April 1945, the German Army had around 285 operational Panzer IV/70 (V). Nearly all were stationed on the Eastern Front (274), while only small numbers were stationed on the Western Front (8) and only three in Italy.
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.

A Soviet T-34-85 passes by a destroyed Panzer IV/70 (V) somewhere on the Eastern Front in March 1945. Source

Other IV/70 (V) operators

The Bulgarians, after changing sides in September of 1944, immediately began attacking their former German ally. In March 1945, their armored force was supplemented with one captured Panzer IV/70 (V) (Ser. Num. 320662) supplied by the Soviets. In Bulgarian service, this vehicle was known under the Maybach T-IV name. This vehicle still exists to this day and can be seen at the National Museum of Military History in Sofia.
Unknown numbers of captured Panzer IV/70 (V) were supplied to the Romanian army by the Soviet Union (possibly after the war). In Romanian service, they were known under the TA T-4 designation and remained in service until 1950, when they were replaced with more modern Soviet equipment. TA was an abbreviation for ‘Tun de Asalt,’ (Assault Gun) and T-4 was the Romanian designation for the Panzer IV.
After the war, Syria received a number of older German captured armored vehicles including unknown numbers of Panzer IV/70 (V) and Jagdpanzer IV. These were supplied by the Soviets and they saw action during the Six Day War.

One Panzer IV/70 (V) was given to the Bulgarians by the Soviets. In Bulgarian service, this vehicle was known under the Maybach T-IV name. Source: Matev

Surviving vehicles

A small number of Panzer IV/70 (V) survive to this day and can be seen in several museums around the world. One can be found in the capital city of Bulgaria, Sofia, one in Shrivenham in the UK, two in the USA (Patton Museum and Aberdeen Proving Grounds), one in Canada (Ottawa), and one at Kubinka (Russia). One more can be found in Syria.

Conclusion

Despite the issue with its weight, the Panzer IV/70 (V) proved to be a dangerous and effective anti-tank weapon as it could destroy all Allied armored vehicles from great ranges. It had a very low profile which made camouflaging it a very easy task. The strong frontal 80 mm angled armor provided efficient protection from enemy fire, especially from a distance.
But, on the other hand, it was built too late and in insufficient numbers to have any large impact on the War. The late introduction and long development time of this vehicle also disrupted the production of the much needed Panzer IV tank, which the Panzer IV/70(V) was sometimes forced to replace in combat, being used as a tank despite being unsuitable for the purpose.

Another destroyed Panzer IV/70 (V) somewhere on the Western Front. Source

Specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 8.5 x 3.2 x 2 meters
Total weight, battle ready 25.8 tonnes
Armament 7.5 cm StuK 42/ PaK 42 L/70 and one 7.92 mm MG 42
Armor Hull front 80 mm, side 30 mm, rear 20 mm and bottom 10-20 mm
Superstructure front 80 mm, side 40 mm top and rear 20 mm
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Maybach HL 120 TRM, 300 hp (221 kW), 11.63 hp/ton
Speed 35 km/hr, 15-18 km/hr (cross country)
Suspension Leaf springs
Operational range 210 km (130 mi)
Total production 930 – 950

Source

David Doyle (2005), German military Vehicles, Kp Books
Janusz L. (2002) Panzer IV/70 (V), Militaria.
Krzysztof M. and George P. (2001), Jagdpanzer IV L/48, Kagero Lublin
Alexander Ludeke, Waffentechnik im Zeiten Weltrieg, Parragon books
Duško Nešić, (2008), Naoružanje Drugog Svetsko Rata-Nemačka, Beograd
Thomas L. Jentz (1997), Panzer Tracts No.9 Jagdpanzer, Darlington Production Inc.
Bryan P. (2003) Sturmartillerie and Panzerjäger 1939-45, Osprey Publishing
Terry J. G. (2004), Tanks in Detail JgdPz IV, V, VI and Hetzer, Ian Allan Publishing
Surviving Pz.IV Variants (2018)
Peter Chamberlain and Hilary Doyle (1978) Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition, Arms and Armor press.
Walter J. Spielberger (1993). Panzer IV and its Variants, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
Warmachines No. 17 Jagdpanzer IV/70 Military Photo File, Verlinder Publications
Steven Z. (2016) Bazooka Vs. Panzers Battle for the Bulge, Osprey Publishing
Thomas L. Jentz (2005) Panzer Tracts No.9-3 Jagdpanther, Panzer Tracts publications
Adrian S. Gheorghe B. (2010) Artileria Română în date și imagini, Editura Centrului Tehnic-Editorial al Armatei.
Matev, K. (2000). Bulgarian Armored Vehicles 1935-1945. Angela Publishing.



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.

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) (Sd.Kfz. 139) Marder III

Nazi Germany (1942-43)
Tank Destroyer – 344 Built

As the German armored forces advanced on all fronts in 1940 and 1941, they encountered many different enemy tank types that were almost immune to guns of their Panzers. In France it was the B1 bis and the British Matilda (when the Germans met the first Matildas at Arras, it was a very unpleasant shock), in the Soviet Union were the famous the T-34 and the heavy KV-series, and in Africa again (in larger numbers) the Matilda tank. While they were able to defeat these by various means, the Germans were pressed to find a better way to combat these threats. The newly developed towed anti-tank guns (like the PaK 40 built in 1942) could efficiently destroy these tanks, but they were not suitable for offensive operations. A logical solution was to try to mount these towed anti-tank guns on a tank chassis and thus solve problem of mobility, and so the new Panzerjäger’s were born.
These new vehicles followed the same pattern: most were open-topped, with limited traverse, and thin armor. They were, though, armed with an effective anti-tank gun, and usually with one machine gun. They were also cheap and easy to build. Panzerjäger’s were, in essence, improvised and temporary solutions, but effective ones nevertheless. Just as the name suggests (tank hunter), they were designed to hunt down enemy tanks at long range on open fields. Their primary mission was to engage enemy tanks and to act as fire support at long range from carefully selected combat positions, usually on the flanks. This mentality led to a series of such vehicles named ‘Marder’ that was developed using many different armored vehicles as a base.

A canvas cover was often installed over the fighting compartment and used to protect the crew from bad weather. It offered no real protection during combat. Source:www.worldwarphotos.info

Panzer 38 (t)

The TNH – LT vz.38 tank was developed and built by the Czech ČKD company (Českomoravska Kolben Danek) in the second half of the nineteen-thirties. Production of the vz. 38 began in late 1938 but, by the time of the German annexation of Czech territory, not a single tank was handed over to the Czech army. Germany captured many brand new vz.38 tanks and, in May 1939, a delegation was sent to the ČKD factory to examine their operational potential. The Germans were so impressed with this tank that they were quickly introduced into Wehrmacht service under the name Pz.Kpfw.38(t) or simply Panzer 38(t). The ČKD factory was completely taken over for the needs of the German army under the new name BMM (Bohmisch-Mahrische Maschinenfabrik).
The Panzer 38(t) was built in relatively large numbers, saw combat action from Poland to the end of the war and was considered an effective tank for its class. But, from late 1941 on, it became obvious that it was becoming obsolete as a first line combat tank. The Panzer 38(t) chassis, on the other hand, was mechanically reliable and was highly suitable for use for other purposes, a fact which the German exploited to the maximum. Many different armored vehicles were built using the Panzer 38(t) chassis including many Panzerjager versions, like the Marder III armed with a modified Russian 7.62 cm field gun (M1936).

Heavy camouflage and a well selected combat position was necessary for the crew’s survival. Source:www.worldwarphotos.info

Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) (Sd.Kfz. 139) ‘Marder III’

The need for such a vehicle became obvious during the first year of Operation Barbarossa (the German invasion on the Soviet Union), when German ground forces encountered the T-34 and the KV tanks. Fortunately for the Germans, they captured large numbers of the 7.62 cm field gun (M1936) which had good anti-tank firepower. This gun was immediately put to use by the German ground forces, but mobility was an issue, so an idea appeared to install this gun on tank chassis in order to increase its mobility.
The Panzer 38(t) armed with this Soviet gun was named 7.62 cm PaK36 (r) Pz.Kpfw.38(t) ‘Marder III’ Sd.Kfz.139 or Panzerjager 38(t) fur 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) Sd.Kfz.139 ‘Marder III’ depending on the source.

Construction

The Panzer 38(t) chassis and the running gear were almost unchanged. The suspension was also the same as the original, consisting of four large road wheels (connected in pairs to a central horizontal spring). There were two front drive sprockets, two rear idlers, and four return rollers in total (two on each side).
The design of the engine compartment was also unchanged. The first series of Marder III built were based on the Ausf.G tank chassis and were equipped with the Praga EPA (125 hp) six cylinder engine, but later models (built using the Ausf.H tank chassis) had a stronger Praga AC (150 hp) six cylinder engine. Both engines were connected to a transmission that had five forward and one reverse gears. Two starters were installed, one was electric and the second was an inertial starter located in the rear of the vehicle. Top speed was around 42 to 47 km/h and some 20 km/h on cross country. Two double skin fuel tanks with some 200 l in total were mounted on both engine sides. The operational range was around 185 km on good roads.
The tank hull was somewhat different from the original one used on the Panzer 38(t). In order to install the new weapon mount, it was necessary to remove the turret, the top part of the hull armor and the ammo storage for the old gun. The front and side hull armor with the three observation hatches (two on front and one on the right side) and the hull machine gun were unchanged. The front hull armor was 50 mm thick, while the sides and rear were 15 mm thick.
On top of the hull, the new armored (open from top and rear) superstructure with the main gun was installed. On the upper part of the hull, about where the turret ring was, a ‘T’ shape gun mount was bolted in. The main gun and the gun crew were protected with an enlarged armored shield which consisted of six armored plates bolted together over the original gun shield. This armored shield offered the gun crew some protection from the front and sides, while the top and the rear were open. The thickness of the new modified gun shield was around 14.5 mm plus the armor from the original gun shield, and 10 mm on the sides.
The rest of this vehicle was covered in armored plates with different shapes and different angles, on top and over the tank hull (some 15 mm thick). The engine compartment was also protected from the sides with two armored plates.
Due to being an open-topped vehicle with low thickness armor and high silhouette, crew protection was on a very low level. Camouflage and a well-selected field position were essential for survival. As an open topped vehicle, the crew was also exposed to weather conditions. A canvas cover could be placed over the vehicle but it limited the crew’s view of the surroundings.
The main gun, as previously noted was the 7.62 cm PaK 36(r), with some 30 rounds of ammunition. Most rounds were placed below the gun mount, with three rounds mounted on the left and right side below the gun shield. In practice, crews would store many more rounds in any available free space inside or outside the vehicle. Due to the gun weight, installation of a heavy travel lock was necessary, in order to avoid damaging the main gun when on the move. At first, a simple steel tube shape travel lock was used, but during the war it was replaced with a strengthened triangle shaped one filled with sheet steel.
The elevation of the Pak 36 was -7° to +16° with a traverse of 50°. The maximum rate of fire was 10-12 rounds per minute. Armor penetration with the standard AP round from the range of 1000 m (at 0° angled armor) was around 108 mm. By using the much better (but rare) tungsten round (7.62 cm Pzar. Patr. 40), the armor penetration increased up to 130 mm at the same range.
The secondary weapon was the original Czech 7.92 mm ZB-53 (named MG-37(t) in German use) with some 1,200 rounds of ammunition. The crew would also carry their personal weapons for self defense.
The Marder III crew consisted of the commander/gunner, loader, driver and radio operator. The driver and the radio operator were positioned inside the vehicle, the same as on the Panzer 38(t). Two (modified) front hatch doors were located at the front top of the new armored superstructure, just beneath the main gun. These doors were used by the driver and the radio operator to enter or exit their positions. The driver was located on the right side and had two observation hatches (in front and on the right side). The radio operator (and also the hull ball mounted machine gun operator) was located to the left with his radio instruments (Fu 5 SE 10 U). The commander/gunner and the loader were located behind the new gun shield in the upper part of the vehicle. On the left side was the gun operator and the loader was on the right side. They only had a limited amount of space behind the gun shield. Used rounds and other equipment, spare parts or supplies were usually carried in the rear mesh wire basket.
Total weight was some 10.67 t. The length was 5.85 m, width 2.16 m and the height was 2.5 m.

Organization of the self-propelled anti-tank battalions

Special self-propelled anti-tank battalions (Panzerjäger-Abteilungen Sfl.) were formed and equipped with the new Marder III. Both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen SS fielded such battalions. Later during the war, as more and better self-propelled anti-tank were built, the surviving Marder IIIs were given to infantry (motorized) divisions or returned to Germany to be used as training vehicles.
Self-propelled anti-tank battalions were supposed to be equipped with 45 Marder III vehicles. Three were used as command vehicles (Stabskompanies) and 12 vehicles were positioned in each of the three Panzerjäger-Kompanien. The Panzerjäger-Kompanien were divided into three platoons, each with four vehicles. The rest were used to equipped HQ section (Gruppe Fuhrer) with two vehicles in each Kompanie.
These anti-tank battalions were equipped with other vehicles necessary for their successful operation: over 20 motorcycles (half were with sidecars), 45 cars, more than 60 trucks, some 13 half-track of different types (four Sd.Kfz.10, six Sd.Kfz.7 and three Sd.Kfz.8) and one Sd.Kfz.251. Sometimes, modified ammunition Panzers were used, but this was rare. In total, Self-propelled anti-tank battalions had around 650 men.
It is important to note that this information and the numbers presented were, in the best case, purely theoretical, for several reasons: because of the losses during the war, not many Marders were produced to equip all units. Also, there were insufficient men and materials, many vehicles were often on repairs etc.

In combat

The majority of the Marder III tank hunters were sent to the Eastern Front, where such a vehicle was desperately needed by the German forces. Almost a third of the produced Marder IIIs would be sent to North Africa, helping the DAK (Deutsches Afrikakorps) fighting against British and later even American tanks.

In North Africa

After the failed Italian attack on the British positions in Egypt, Mussolini was desperate to convince Hitler to send military aid to his shattered forces in Africa. Initially, Hitler was not interested in the Mediterranean. He reluctantly decided to help his ally and sent an armored force under the leadership of Erwin Rommel.
The Germans quickly found out that, beside the famous ‘88’ (88 mm Flak gun), the standard 3.7 cm and short 5 cm anti-tank weapons struggled against the well armored British Matilda tank. A number of captured and modified 7.62 mm PaK 36(r) guns were also sent to the North African front. One great issue with this weapons was the low mobility on a front were speed was essential for success. Several solutions to this problem were tested, like the Sd.Kfz..6 armed with the 7.62 mm PaK 36(r) in a box shape casemate and the experimental half-tracks armed with the 7.5 cm L/41 gun.
Before sending the new Marder to Africa, it was necessary to adapt them for service in the African desert. In March 1942, one Marder III was equipped and tested with sand filters. The tests were successful and later vehicles sent to Africa would have these filters. The number of vehicles sent ranges from 66 to 117 (depending on the sources).
The first Marder IIIs (6 vehicles) arrived to North Africa in May 1942, with the last one arriving in November 1942. The freshly arrived Marder IIIs were used to reinforce and equip anti-tank battalions of the 15th and 21th Panzer Divisions.
By late October 1942, the 15th Panzer Division had at its disposal some 16 Marder III vehicles. All were allocated to the 33rd Anti-Tank Battalion, together with a number of towed 5 cm PaK 38 anti-tank guns. After the British attack at El Alamein at the end of October 1942, the 33rd Anti-Tank Battalion was under a heavy attack. It managed to inflict some heavy damage to the British advance units but it also suffered losses. Almost all the Marder IIIs were lost, except one.
In September 1942, the 39th Anti-Tank Battalion of the 21st Panzer Division had around 17 PaK 38 guns and 18 Marder IIIs divided between two Kompanien (1st and the 2nd). There is little information on this unit’s participation in the Battle for Alam Halfa (October-September 1942). In late October 1942, during the British counterattack at El Alamein, all 18 Marder III vehicles were reported to be still operational. By the 25th of October, this unit was pulled out into reserve. The next day, the 2nd Kompanie was sent to the north to help stop a British attack while the 1st Kompanie was located to the south.
By the end of October, the 39th Anti-Tank Battalion was heavily involved in fighting, trying to free some encircled units of the 164th Light Division. On the 4th of November, the surviving German forces were forced to retreat. The 39th Anti-Tank Battalion lost all its Marder IIIs and had only a few 5 cm PaK’s left. By December, the 21st Panzer Division had only two Marders III, which were not even fit for action.
In March 1943, after some resting time, the 39th Anti-Tank Battalion was reformed and reinforced. The 1st Kompanie received 9 Marder IIIs and the 2nd Kompanie received Marder III Ausf.H (version armed with the 7.5 cm PaK 40). They fought in Tunisia until the Axis surrender in May.
The 10th Panzer Division was pulled out from the Eastern Front and after some time resting was reinforced with 9 Marders III in July 1942 (90th Anti-Tank Battalion). The 10th Panzer Division was sent to the North African front in November 1942. In Africa, this unit was engaged in many battles against the British and newly-arrived American forces and the losses were heavy. The last Marder III was reported lost in March 1943.
The 190th Anti-Tank Battalion and the 605th Anti-Tank Battalion were supposed to be equipped with Marder IIIs, but there is little evidence that this ever happened.
The British tank crews learned to fear the Marder’s firepower at long ranges. When the British first learned about this new German tank hunter they assumed that was armed with the famous ‘88’ gun.
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Marder III, captured by the Allies in North Africa. Source: Pininterest


A Marder III of the 49th Panzerjäger-Abteilung of the 4th Panzer Division on the Eastern Front, 1943.

A Marder III with a three-tone camouflage in Russia, 1943. Note the kill rings.
A Marder III captured by Soviet Troops in 1944. Note the crossed-out Balkenkreuz.

Marder III of the Deutsche Afrika Korps in July 1942. This vehicle belonged to the 15th Panzer Division.

In Russia

The 1st Panzer division was heavily engaged in Russia during the first year of German invasion. In May 1942, it was reinforced with six Marder IIIs which were used to equip the 37th anti-tank battalion. This unit’s first action was during the German attack (July 1942) on the Soviet positions around Belyj and Szytschewka south of city Rzhev (some 230 km west from Moscow). By September 1942, this unit was credited with destroying some 99 Soviet tanks. By the end of November and beginning of December, it was engaged in defensive operations in the region of southwest of Bjeloj (Tver Oblast near Moscow). Due to the long and difficult fighting, this unit was exhausted, so it was sent to France (end of December) for rest and relaxation. The surviving Marders were left behind, but there is no information about which units received them.
The next unit to receive the Marder III was the 38th anti-tank battalion of the 2nd Panzer Division. In May 1942, the 38th anti-tank battalion was reinforced with 9 Marder IIIs, one Panzer II Ausf.B Befehlspanzer and a few Panzer I Ausf.B modified into ammunition tanks. This unit was not immediately sent to the front, but instead spent the next few months in training. It was ready for active duty in July 1942, and was immediately involved in heavy fighting around Bjeloj. As it was the only unit to have enough firepower to destroy Soviet heavy tanks at long ranges (the first new Panzer IVs with the longer guns would arrive in this division in August 1942), it managed to claim 14 Soviet T-34 tanks with no losses. On the 11th August, the 2nd Panzer Division managed to destroy 20 enemy tanks, but most were destroyed by the Marders. In December 1942, the 38th anti-tank battalion received a few Marder III Ausf.H (7.5 cm PaK 40). From August 1942 to March 1943, the 38th anti-tank battalion was heavily engaged in many combat operations on the Eastern front. Few were lost due to enemy fire, but many were lost due mechanical breakdowns. From March to April 1943, this unit was sent to the rear for rest. In March, it was again reinforced with 9 new Marder III Ausf.H. This unit did not see action again until July 1943. Due the standardization of weapons within anti-tank battalions in late 1943, the 38th anti-tank battalion was forced to give up all its remaining Marder IIIs to the 616th anti-tank battalion by the end of June 1943.
The SS units were also given a number of Marder III vehicles as they were seen as elite fighting forces and deserved only the best available equipment. The 2nd SS Anti-Tank Battalion of the SS ‘Das Reich’ Panzer division received 9 Marder IIIs in May or June 1942. The first combat action of this unit was in February 1943 on the Eastern Front near Khrakov (in Ukraine). At first, not many vehicles were operational due to the low temperature which caused problems with frozen condensed water gathering at the bottom of the two fuel tanks. In late February, the 2nd SS Anti-Tank Battalion was reinforced with (unknown number) the Panzer II based Marder IIs. During the Operation Zitadelle, the 2nd SS Anti-Tank Battalion saw some heavy action. By the end of summer 1943, the 2nd SS anti-tank battalion was so depleted that this unit was disbanded, and the soldiers who survived were sent as replacement to other SS Stu.G. Abt. DR (units equipped with StuG vehicles). An interesting fact about the 2nd SS Anti-Tank Battalion is that captured and reused several T-34 tanks without the turret as ammunition tanks.
The Marder III fought until the end of the war and, on the 22nd of January 1945, a dozen or more were reported present (around 60 vehicles in various conditions) in several Panzer and infantry divisions.
Beside these Panzer divisions, many more units received Marder III anti-tank vehicles: The 5th (12), 6th (9), 7th (47), 8th (12), 17th (6), 18th (6), 19th (16), 20th (24) and the 22nd (6) Panzer Divisions. As more advanced tank hunters were built, the Marder III was used to equip several infantry and infantry motorized divisions. 18th Inf. Mot. div. received 6, the 20th Inf. Mot. div. received 15, the 29th Inf. Mot.div. received 6, and the 35th Infantry division received only 2 vehicles.
It is important to note that, besides these divisions, many more received the Marder III, but it is difficult to find the exact numbers. In addition, some vehicles were used as training vehicles, which also complicates the total count.

Production

In order to start the production of the new Marder III as quick as possible, BMM was ordered by the German military officials to reuse the existing Panzer 38(t) production line, and thus save time. It was necessary to make certain changes to the production line and adapt it for the needs of the new Marder. Because of this decision, the production of the original Panzer 38(t) was reduced to a minimum and, at the beginning of June 1942, completely stopped in favor of the new tank hunter.
Production of this vehicle began in April of 1942. Monthly production was: April 38, May 82, June 23, July 50, August 51, September 50, and October 50, in total 344 vehicles. From April to July, the Panzer 38(t) Ausf.G tank chassis was used, and from July to the end of the production run in October, the Panzer 38(t) Ausf.H tank chassis with a stronger engine was used.

Advantages and disadvantages of the Marder III

The Marder III tank hunter solved the problem with the low mobility of towed anti-tank guns. It could quickly respond to any threat and quickly disengage and retreat to safety if necessary. The Panzer 38(t) chassis was mechanically reliable and was adequate for this modification. The Marder III was fairly fast, especially on the march and the steering was easy for the driver to handle.
The main gun had enough firepower to destroy any tank at that time at great distance. This was especially evident during the battles in open field in Africa and Russia. It was also a great morale booster for the infantry when they fought together.
The high profile was a big problem for the Marder III, making it a good target for enemy gunners. The armor was also quite light and offered only limited protection from small arms fire and shrapnel. Heavy camouflage and a good selected combat position were necessary for the crew’s survival, but this was not always possible or easy to achieve successfully (for example, in open fields and deserts).

The Marder’s high profile is evident here. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info
The firing position had to be changed often in order to avoid enemy return fire. By doing this, it was necessary to rise (or lower) the travel gun lock, which could take time as a crew member had to get out and do it manually. This had to be done so as not to cause damage to the gun or affect the gun calbration.
Major mechanical failures were rare, but due to the high centre of gravity, the suspension spring bolts were under high stress and they often broke. Supplies of new spare spring bolts were often not available, and this forced many vehicles to be out of use for some time.
The ground pressure was very high, if the driver did not pay attention to the environment, he could easily get the vehicle stuck in the mud. The low ammo capacity was a big issue, especially during prolonged fights as the crew could quickly run out of ammunition. A problem was also the fact that there was no adequate vehicle for the delivery of additional ammunition. Half tracks were often used for this role, but there were never enough of them available. Ammunition carriers based on tank chassis were preferred however they were used in limited numbers by the Germans during WWII.

Getting stuck in the mud was easy thanks to the high ground pressure, as shown by this Marder somewhere on the Eastern Front, 1943. Source: www.worldwarphotos.info

7.62 cm PaK 36(r)

During Operation Barbarossa, the German ground forces managed to captured large numbers of field guns of different calibers. One of the gun captured was the 76.2 mm M1936 (F-22) divisional gun. After a brief assessment of the characteristics of this gun, the German were satisfied with its performance. The gun was given to the army for use under the name FK 296(r). It was at first used as a field gun, but very soon it became clear that it possessed great anti-tank capabilities.

7.62 cm PaK 36(r) was used by the Germans in fairly large numbers during the war. Source: Axishistory
When the German army came across the new Soviet T-34 and the KV-1 and KV-2 tanks, the 37 mm PaK 36/37 did not prove up to the task and the PaK 38 was available only in small numbers. Thus, a temporary solution had to be found and quickly. The 7.62 cm M1936 gun was modified for use as an anti-tank weapon. The changes involved adding a muzzle brake, the gun shield was cut in half and the upper part was welded to the lower part of the shield (similar to the PaK 40 two part shield), reaming-out the gun chamber to 7.5 cm caliber in order to use the standard German ammunition (same as PaK 40) and the elevating handwheel was moved to the left side. After these changes, the gun was renamed 7.62 cm PaK 36(r), and remained in use throughout WWII.

7.62 cm PaK 36 (r) Pz.Kpfw.38(t) ‘Marder III’ Sd.Kfz.139 specifications

Dimensions 5.85 m x 2.16 m x 2.5 m
Total weight, battle ready 10.67 tons
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Praga EPA six cylinder
Top Speed 42-47 km/h, 20 km/h (cross country)
Max Operational Range 185/140 km
Armament 7.62 cm PaK (r) L/54.8
one 7.92 mm MG 37 (t)
Armor Front 30 mm (1.18 in)
Sides 14.5 mm (0.57 in)
Rear 14.5 mm (0.57 in)
Production Total 344

Links, Resources & Further Reading

Panzer 38(t), Steven J. Zaloga, New Vanguard 215.
Marder III Nuts and Bolts 15, Volker Andorfer, Martin Block and Jonh Nelson.
Naoružanje drugog svetsko rata-Germany, Duško Nešić, Beograd 2008.
Waffentechnik im Zeiten Weltrieg, Alexander Ludeke, Parragon books.
Kraftfahrzeuge und Panzer der Reichswehr, Wehrmacht und Bundeswehr ab 1900, Werner Oswald 2004.
German Artillery of World War Two, Ian V.Hogg,
Sturmartillerie and Panzerjager 1939-1945, Bryan Perrett.
German Army S.P Weapons 1939-45 Part 2, Handbook No., P/Chamberlain and H.L. Doyle.
Fighting men of WWII, Axis Forces, David Miller, Chartwell Books 2011.

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa – Dicker Max

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1941) SPG – 2 built

Introduction

The German Army 110.5 cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa artillery self-propelled gun was intended to be used as a long range ‘bunker buster’.
The purpose of this weapon was to fire from a long distance at a strongly held enemy fortification without being in danger of coming under return fire from its target.
The Dicker Max had a long barrelled 10.5cm K 18 cannon to enable it to shoot shells over long distances
It had a long barrelled 10.5cm K 18 cannon, which enabled it to shoot APHE shells over long distances (photographer unknown)
The German armament manufacturer Krupp began development in 1939, but no prototypes were available in time for the invasion of France. The French Maginot Line system of concrete strongpoints, along the border between France and Germany, would have been one of its intended targets. With the quick surrender of France, there was no longer a requirement for such a weapon.
It was then envisaged that this self-propelled artillery gun could be used in the role of a powerful long range tank destroyer. Two prototypes were built and sent to the Eastern front for battlefield trials.

The Name

This self-propelled gun is normally known by its modern nickname, ‘Dicker Max’, which means ‘thick’ or ‘fat’ Max but it was never officially called that in any wartime documentation. It did have a very large profile compared to other self-propelled guns built in 1941. It is also known by a number of other names.
Throughout most of its development, it was known as the 10 cm K Panzer-Selbstfahrlafette IVa (Pz.Sfl.IVa). The letter K stands for the German word ‘Kanone’, which means gun or cannon. ‘Panzer-Selbstfahrlafette’ translates to armored self-propelled gun mount. On 13 August 1941, this SPGs name changed for the last time. It was redesignated 10.5 cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette (gp.Sfl.). The German term ‘gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette’ also translates to armored self-propelled gun mount. The Panzerjäger-Abteilung 521 unit commander, Oberleutnant Kurt Hildebrandt, mentioned in his war diary that this vehicle was given the name ‘Brummbär’.
This Dicker Max has 7 kill rings on its turret.
This Dicker Max has 7 kill rings on its gun barrel. (photographer unknown)

Design

In January 1941, the two finished prototype Dicker Max SPGs were driven out of the factory doors. Hitler witnessed a demonstration of their abilities on 31st March 1941 and gave his approval. If combat trials were successful, then production could begin as soon as possible. Realistically, this would not have been possible until the spring of 1942 if the production order was given following successful trials.
The K18 heavy field howitzer was a very large and heavy gun. The designers needed a strong vehicle to carry it. They chose the Panzer IV Ausf. D tank chassis, but it had to be heavily modified. The gun crew needed space to work the weapon. The Panzerkampfwagen IV engine was at the rear of the vehicle, but this was a problem. The solution the designers came up with was to move the engine to the middle of the chassis. The V-12 Maybach HL120 engine of the Panzer IV was replaced by a lighter Maybach HL 66 Pla 6-cylinder liquid-cooled engine.
The tank turret was removed. The armored engine hatches were cut away to leave a large space in the rear of the vehicle. The gun was mounted above the engine. An open topped armored fighting compartment superstructure casement was built around the gun. The sides and rear were constructed using 20 millimetres (0.79 in) thick armor.
This would stop most small arms fire and shell shrapnel. The crew were given better protection at the front. The forward glacis plate was 50 mm (2 inch) thick face-hardened armor. It was sloped at 15° from the vertical.
The Dicker Max was based on a Panzer IV tank chassis
The Dicker Max was based on a Panzer IV tank chassis. (photographer unknown)
This vehicle was seen as a second line support weapon that used its long range to engage enemy targets and stay out of harm’s way. It was not given a hull mounted machine gun. The one that was fitted to the Panzer IV tank chassis was removed.
The designers thought it would be a good idea to replace it with a fake armored driver’s compartment on the right hand side of the vehicle, that matched the one on the left, to confuse the enemy. The crew carried three 9 mm machine pistols with 576 rounds of ammunition for use in self-defence.
An ‘A’ frame gun travel lock was fitted on the front deck to secure the gun whilst the vehicle was driving across uneven ground. The 10.5cm K18 gun could only traverse 8° to the left and right, with a depression of 15° and elevation of 10°.
The gunner and driver had to work together to bring the gun to bear on an enemy target. A large double baffle muzzle brake was fitted to the end of the barrel to help reduce the massive recoil of the gun by diverting the high pressure gasses sideways. This increased the time during which the gun barrel could be used before requiring replacement. There was storage space for only 25 rounds inside the fighting compartment.

The 10.5cm K 18 Gun

The German Army 10.5 cm schwere Kanone 18 L/52 (10.5 cm sK18 L/52) was a field gun used by Germans in WW2. The German words ‘schwere Kanone’ mean heavy cannon or heavy gun. They were often abbreviated to ‘sK’ or just ‘K’. The 10.5cm K18 was heavier than the 10.5cm M18 field howitzer because guns have longer barrels than artillery howitzers. During the vehicles development the gun was often refered to as being a 10 cm rather than the more accurte 10.5 cm designation.
Even though it had a relatively small calibre, it’s weight was 5.5 tonnes (about the same as the 15cm howitzer), making it 3.5 tonnes heavier than the 10.5cm Lfh18 light field howitzer
The 10.5cm K18 used the same Krupp gun carriage as the 15 cm howitzer because both weapons had a similar weight. It sometimes equipped the medium artillery battalion, but normally was used by independent artillery battalions and on coast defense duties.
German Army 10.5 cm schwere Kanone 18 (10.5 cm sK 18) was a field gun used by Germans in WW2.
The 10.5 cm schwere Kanone 18 (10.5 cm sK 18) was a heavy field gun used by Germans in WW2. (photographer unknown)
The gun was developed late in the 1920’s by Rheinmetall. It didn’t enter production until 1933. The most important feature of the 10.5cm K18 gun was the barrel. The barrel length was 5.46 m (18 ft), or L/52, meaning 52 times the caliber. This was almost twice as long as the 10.5cm Lfh18 howitzer, thus giving it one-and-a-half times the range: 19 km compared with 13 km when firing HE high explosive shells.
Only 1,500 guns were produced. The APHE shell (Armor Piercing shells with High Explosive filler) weighed 15.6 kg and was fired at a velocity of 835m per second (2,739 ft/s). At a range of 2 km (1.24 mi), its armor piercing shell could penetrate 111 mm (4.37 in) of armor sloped at 30°. At 1.5 km (0.93 mi), it could penetrate 124 mm (4.8 in). At a range of 1 km (0.6 mi) it could penetrate 138 mm (5.43 in). At 500 m (0.3 mi) its AP shell could penetrate 155 mm (6.1 in) of armor.
Production numbers of the 10cm K18 were quite low, especially when compared to the production of the lFH18 and the sFH18. Thirty five were produced in 1940, one hundred and eight were manufactured in 1941, one hundred and thirty five in 1942, four hundred and fifty four in in 1943 and seven hundred and one in 1944.
In some official German Army reports the 10.5cm K18 gun was officially designated 10cm Kan. This can be very confusing. The actual caliber of the s.10 cm K18 was 10.5 cm (4.14 inches). The German 10 cm Kanonen originated from the WW1 10.5 cm naval gun caliber.
The 105mm K18 Dicker Max SPG during combat trails on the Eastern Front 1941
The 105mm K 18 Dicker Max SPG during combat trails on the Eastern Front 1941. (photographer unknown)
When the 10.5cm sK 18 gun first entered service in the German Army, it was not motorized and had to be pulled by a teams of horses. The gun weighed too much for one team of six horses, therefore the barrel and the carriage had to be towed as separate loads by two different teams.
Unlike the 10.5cm sFH 18 howitzer, however, the 10.5cm K 18 cannon was considered too large to be horse-drawn, and was therefore not found in the standard German infantry division until the divisional artillery regiments began retiring its horse drawn teams and using half tracked motorized tractor units in the middle of the war.
Panzer Artillery Regiments and later Panzergrenadier Divisions had been motorized from the outset, and one battery of the heavy battalion of these regiments was equipped with four K18 cannons for most of the war. The sK 18 was intended to be used mostly in counter-battery role; besides, due to its long range, it was more suitable to furnish fire support.
The 10cm K 18 gun fired a flatter trajectory round at a higher velocity out to a range of 19,075-meters, making it the furthest-ranging gun in the German arsenal. A typical mission would be counter-battery fire (the destruction of enemy artillery). In the long run it proved a disappointment in service, due to its relatively low shot weight of only 5.43 kg, which reduced the effectiveness of the gun considerably.
The crew of this 10.5 cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa called their vehicle Brummbaer
The crew of this 10.5 cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa called their vehicle ‘Brummbaer’. The photo shows it after repairs, ready to take part in the summer Eastern Front offensive Case Blue. Notice the tank ‘kill rings’ are no longer rings: they have been repainted by the mechanics in the workshop. (photographer unknown)

An article by Craig Moore

Specifications

Dimensions (L x W x H) 7.56m (5.8 without gun) x 2.84m x 3.25 m
(24’9″ x 9’4″ x 10’8″)
Total weight, battle ready 26 tonnes
Crew 5 (commander, driver, gunner, 2 loaders)
Propulsion Maybach HL 66 Pla, 6-cylinder liquid-cooled engine, 180 hp
Fuel capacity 207 liters
Top road speed 27 km/h (17 mph)
Operational range (road) 170 km (110 miles)
Armament 10.5 cm schwere Kanone 18 L/52 gun, 25 rounds
Armor Front 50 mm
Sides 30 mm
Rear 30 mm
Total production 2

Sources

Panzer Tracts No.7-1 Panzerjaeger Thomas L Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle
U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 6
German Artillery at War 1939-45 vol.1 by Frank V.de Sisto.
Armor Journal 10,5cm Dicker Max by Marcus Hock
Die deutschen gepanzerten Truppen bis 1945 by General Munzel

Combat Trials

In May 1941, the Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 521 tank hunter battalion was chosen to conduct combat trials with the two new prototype 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa self-propelled guns. They were used on the Eastern Front along with the two new prototype 12.8cm kan (Sfl.) self-propelled guns.
The trials did not start well. One of the 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa self-propelled guns was completely destroyed when it accidentally caught fire and the heat caused the ammunition to detonate.
This destroyed 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa is not in a wood and its front right track guard is still flat
A massive internal explosion has blown away the whole side of this Dicker Max SPG
This photograph was taken from the other side of the same destroyed 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa. A massive internal explosion has blown away the whole left side of the vehicle. (photographer unknown)
Destroyed Dicker Max
In this photo of the destroyed 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa the front right track guard has been bent upwards. It looks like a mechanic wanted more room to work in as he tried to remove the vehicle’s final drive. It was probably dragged back into the woods to provide some cover, for the engineers stripping the vehicle, from Soviet air attack. (photographer unknown)
The remaining 110.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa fought successfully until the end of 1941. The gun barrel, in some of the black and white operational photographs, features white rings painted on it. These are ‘kill rings’, that denote how many Soviet tanks it had destroyed.
Records show that it was transported back to Krupp and rebuilt during the first half of 1942. The photograph below is of the vehicle with damage. It looks like it has lost a road wheel and suffered damage to the fourth road wheel, possibly caused by driving over a mine. It is on a railway flatback tank transporter wagon going to be repaired.
When the repair work was complete, it was returned to the Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 521 in time to take part in the 1942 new German summer offensive on the Eastern Front, called Case Blue.
Damaged Dicker Max
Notice the ‘kill rings’ have been hand painted and go all the way around the barrel on this 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa. When it returns from the factory they are more professionally painted and are only on the side of the barrel. (photographer unknown)
Battalion records of the Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 521 showed the 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa being available for Operation Case Blue. The same Battalion records for November—December 1942 do not show it on the register of available vehicles. Nothing is recorded of its fate. Normally if it was knocked out by enemy action or had a mechanical breakdown this would be recorded.
One source has stated that the surviving 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa was sent to Germany in October 1942 and rebuilt as a standard Panzer IV tank nicknamed “Brummbaer”. Is this true? Why go through this effort when you have a weapon that is destroying enemy AFVs on the frontline. It seems unlikely.

Were the trials a success?

The one remaining vehicle is known to have combat kills but, by the end of 1942, production of the high velocity 8.8cm gun was at a higher level than the 10.5cm K18. It may be argued that it was decided to concentrate on producing the anti-tank self-propelled guns that used the 8.8cm gun: these included the Nashorn, Jagdpanther and Ferdinand.

The Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 521

On the 8th June 1942, the German Army tank hunter battalion Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 521 was fighting on the Eastern Front as part of XVII Corps, 6th Army, Army Group South. Battalion records recorded that it had two companies of Marder II 7.5cm Pak 40 anti-tank self-propelled guns, one company of Panzerjäger I 4.7cm anti-tank self-propelled guns, one platoon with two 12.8m Selbstfahrlafette auf VK30.01(H) “Sturer Emil” self-propelled guns and one 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa.
The last surviving 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa disappeared from the Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 521 ‘strength reports’ in November 1942. Both “Sturer Emils” and three Panzerjäger-I SPGs and a Marder SPG are shown available for deployment. In December, only one “Sturer Emil”, three Panzerjäger-I SPGs and one Marder SPG were reported available for action when the unit was merged in a “Panzerjaeger-Verband”. It was destroyed in the Stalingrad-Area in January 1943.
There is a problem to solve. The last known photograph of the surviving 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa is dated February 1942 and has a solder dressed in what looks like Red Army winter clothing climbing on top of the vehicle. It is not known if this is a Soviet soldier or a German soldier wearing captured winter clothing. Some sources state that it was a Soviet official photographer. It is not known what happened to this vehicle after this photograph was taken.

Operational Photographs

Dicker Max and crew of the Schwere Panzerjaeger Abteilung 521
10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa and crew of the Schwere Panzerjaeger Abteilung 521 (photographer unknown)
The long 10.5cm gun was clamped in an A frame Gun lock when driving across country
The long 10.5cm gun was clamped in an ‘A’ frame gun lock when driving across country (photographer unknown)
A large muzzle brake was fitted to the long 10.5cm K18 gun barrel
A large muzzle brake was fitted to the long 10.5cm K18 gun barrel to help reduce the effects of recoil by dispersing the high pressure explosive gasses when the gun was fired.  (photographer unknown)
Dicker Max 10.5cm K18 SPG driver
The 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa’s driver is standing on his seat with the top of his body out of the open hatch. The armored driver’s position on the right of the vehicle is fake and meant to confuse enemy gunners. (photographer unknown)
An early photograph of a Dicker Max without the battalion badge.
An early photograph of a Dicker Max without the battalion badge. Notice the spare track attached to the front of the hull. (photographer unknown)
Panzerjager-Abteilung 521 only had one Dicker Max 10.5cm K18 SPG.
Panzerjager-Abteilung 521 only had one 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa. It did have a company of Panzerjäger I 4.7cm anti-tank self-propelled guns as you can see in this photograph. (photographer unknown)
Dicker Max
This is the last known photograph of the surviving 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa before it was destroyed. Notice the increase amount of kill rings on the barrel and the addition of a camouflage livery on top of the grey base colour. There is snow stuck in the tracks but it has not been white washed. (photographer unknown)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

This Dicker Max was destroyed in an accident before it reached the front line
This 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa self-propelled gun caught fire in an accident which ignited the ammunition and destroyed it before reaching the front line.
The Dicker Max that fought with Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 521
The Panzerjaeger-Abteilung 521 tank hunter battalion on the Eastern Front received the only surviving 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa self-propelled gun for combat trials in May 1941. The crew called it ‘Brummbaer’.

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Jagdpanther

Nazi germany Nazi Germany (1943) Tank hunter – 415 built

Historical context

After encountering heavy Soviet tanks such as the KV-1, it rapidly became apparent that the Pak 36, which formed the bulk of the German AT guns at the start of Operation Barbarossa, was inadequate. To counter the threat these tanks posed, heavier guns were introduced to the front, including the 7.5 cm (3 inch) Pak 40 and, more importantly, the 88 mm (3.5 inch) Pak 43. The 88 mm (3.5 inch) Flak, on which the Pak 43 was based, had been used in ground support since the Spanish civil war and had proven to be very proficient at taking out tanks. So it’s no surprise the decision was made to mount it onto a tank chassis.
The resulting tank was the Hornisse (later known as the Nashorn), which had a Pak 43 mounted onto a Panzer III/IV chassis. Despite having a high silhouette and very little armor, it proved more than adequate, being able to take out tanks at ranges of over 3000 m (3280 yards).
Another tank destroyer using the Pak 43 was the Ferdinand (later known as the Elefant). After losing a design contract to Henschel, Porsche had 100 Tiger P chassis which couldn’t be equipped with the Henschel turret, since they were reserved for the Henschel Tiger tank. In 1942, the order was given to convert the remaining chassis into tank destroyers, which were to use the Pak 43. The Ferdinand first saw use in the Battle of Kursk, where it could easily take out enemies from long range. But when it advanced, the flaws became apparent. The lack of close range defense made it an easy target for Soviet infantry, that could near the tank. to throw Molotov cocktails onto the engine deck. Its heavy weight also made it difficult to cross most bridges of it’s era, and the poor Soviet infrastructure made navigating near impossible in certain places.
It became clear that the German army was in need of a tank destroyer that offered decent mobility without sacrificing armor, and vice versa. And as such, the Jagdpanther came to be.

The hunting Panther

Front-left view of the Jagdpanther
The Jagdpanther is one of the most iconic tank destroyers of World War 2. Based on the Panther chassis, the famous tank destroyer was produced from 1943 up until the end of the war in 1945. Mechanically more reliable than the Ferdinand/Elephant and the Köningstiger, armed with the 88 mm (3.5 inch) Pak 43 “Panzerknacker” and with 80 mm of 55 degree sloped armour (this presented 138 mm of thickness of armour to a shell fired horizontally at the front of the Jagdpanther) it was a formidable opponent for any tank at the time. During the war, over 400 tanks were produced, seeing action on both the Eastern and the Western European fronts. After the war, captured Jagdpanthers were used by the French army, along with Panthers and other German tanks, up until the 1950’s. Overall,the Jagdpanther was a great mix of mobility, firepower and armor. Today, only 10 of the tank destroyers are left, spread across various museums worldwide.

Development history

Design

When the Pak 43 was designed, it was originally meant to be towed into battle, but it soon became clear that the anti-tank gun was very unwieldy to transport in the field. As a result, the Wehrmacht started looking for a self-propelled platform to mount the 88 mm (3.5 in) gun onto. The solution was found on August 3rd, 1942, when the Heereswaffenamt (the agency in charge of R&D for the German army) decided to mount the Pak on a Panther chassis. Krupp was awarded the design contract, but was unable to deliver the design drawings by January 1943, and so the project was handed over to Daimler-Benz. Krupp, however, remained responsible for the production and delivery of the Pak 43, the main armament of the Jagdpanther. In the first designs, the tank was named the “88mm Sturmgeschutz.”
The final design was presented to Hitler on his birthday, and subsequently accepted by the Heereswaffenamt in May 1943. As production started on the first models of the Jagdpanther, it became apparent that there was a shortage of workspace in the Daimler-Benz factory. That, combined with Daimler-Benz not being able to produce the contracted amount of Panthers, lead to production being handed over to MIAG, a Braunschweig based company. A pre-production model was presented to Hitler on the 20th of October, alongside a model of the Tiger 2 and the Jagdtiger. November that year, mass-production of the Jagdpanther was authorized. When it entered German Army service it was given the designation Sd.Kfz.172.

Production

Jagdpanthers on the factory floor
The first Jagdpanther meant for service was delivered in December 1943, with production increasing to 10 tanks per month in April 1944. Delays in production were mainly due to improvements being implemented. Strengthened gearboxes and intermediate gears were installed. Jagdpanther production was also slowed down due to bombing raids and lack of workmen. By the end of June 1944, only 46 of the tanks had left the factory floors, barely enough to equip one Schwerer Panzerjäger unit. This was far from the original 160 planned vehicles, which would have been enough to equip 3 units and have some left for testing and training.
The MIAG firm complained about the lack of workmen, and as such was sent 320 men from the Panzerjäger replacement unit. This managed to boost production to 20 tanks a month in September 1944. Neither the OKW, nor the Heeresamt were happy with the production numbers and, as a result, two other companies, MHN & MBA, were contracted to produce the Jagdpanther. This increased the total output to 67 tanks for December 1944.

Armament

The Jagdpanther was equipped with the fearsome 88 mm (3.5 inch)  Pak 43. Based on an anti-air gun, the 88 mm (3.5 inch) soon turned out to be more than adept at taking on an anti-tank roll. Accurate at over 3000 m (3280 yards) and with a muzzle velocity of over 1000 m/s (3280 ft/s), the 88 mm (3.5 inch) gun has more than earned its reputation as one of the best anti-tank guns of the war.
The Pak originally featured a monobloc barrel, but due to the rapid wear of the high-velocity gun, the decision was made to replace it with a dual piece barrel. Although this didn’t reduce wear, it did make replacement easier. The main gun was able to fire different shells, ranging from the armor piercing PzGr. 39/43 and PzGr. 40/43 to the high explosive Gr. 39/3 HL.
The Jagdpanther carried 60 rounds of 88 mm (3.5 inch) ammunition, 1200 rounds for the coax hull-mounted gun and two MP40’s with 384 9×19 mm rounds. With the introduction of the Nahverteidigungswaffe (close range defense weapon), it was possible to launch projectiles near the tank without endangering the crew, and so 16 grenades were added to the inventory. However, this weapon couldn’t be built into most of the Jagdpanthers before June 1944, due to a shortage of the weapon. As a result, earlier models of the tank have the opening in the roof sealed with a circular plate which was held by screws.

Armor

As the Germans improved their armor, so did the Allies. As the war progressed, bigger and heavier guns were being developed by the Allies, capable of shooting shells of ever-increasing penetration. To counter this, tanks were designed with thicker and sturdier armor, with the Jagdpanther being no exception. Meant to be able take on other tank destroyers, the Jagdpanther’s frontal upper armor was a single, 80 mm (3.15 inch) thick wall of steel under an angle of 55°, with the lower frontal armor being 60 mm (2.35 inch) at an angle of 60°. This resulted in a formidable effective armor thickness of ~140 mm (5.5 inch) for the upper plate and ~90 mm (3.5 inch) for the lower plate, guaranteeing protection from all but the heaviest of guns.
The gun mantlet was just as tough as the frontal armor of the Jagdpanther. A 100 mm (3.9 inch) thick ‘saukopf’ (pighead) mantlet was installed on the gun. The sides of the superstructure of the tank had 50 mm (1.97 inch) of armor, while the lower sides had 40 mm (1.57 inch) of armor. The roof and the floor were between 16 (0.63 inch) to 25 mm (1 inch) thick.

Mobility

Jagdpanther driving up a slight hill
The production model of the Jagdpanther weighed in at 46 tonnes, making it one of the heavier tanks fielded by the German army. The drive train was the same as the Panther aside from the engine and the heavier transmission. It was powered by a 12 cylinder Maybach HL 230 P30 23.1 liter V12 gasoline engine, which would give it an effective range of 160 km (100 miles) and a top speed of 46km/h (28.6 mph), making it as fast as contemporary Allied medium tanks such as the M4 Sherman, despite the latter weighing 15.000 kg (33070 lbs) less.

Crew

Inside the Jagdpanther there was a 5 man crew consisting of the commander, driver, gunner, loader and radio operator, with the latter doubling as machine gunner. The two hatches at the top of the tank were for the commander and the loader, with the hatch at the back serving as an entrance for the crew and to replenish ammunition.
On early models, the driver used two periscopes to see ahead, and 5 pistol holes which could also be used to observe the surrounding battlefield, but the latter soon turned out to be more detrimental to the strength of the armor. In later models the holes were removed and the left periscope was welded over, being filled with a 15 mm (0.59 in) thick plate. The commander and loader had four periscopes available to survey the surrounding area, two rigid, and two capable of turning.
The Jagdpanther was provided with a 10 Watt Fu 5 transmitter and a 2 Watt Fu 2 receiver radio. Command vehicles received the long range 30 Watt Fu 8 radio set.

Modifications

As the war went on, several additions and adjustments were made to the Jagdpanther.
January 1944: The pistol ports , which weakened the overall hull strength and had become unnecessary with the installation of the Nahverteidigungswaffe, were removed from the tank.
February 1944: The left driver periscope was removed and welded shut with a 15 mm (0.59 in) piece of steel and a towing coupling was welded to the back servicing plate. To make space for this, the winch was moved up to between the exhaust pipes.
Earlier Jagdpanther still used the Panther Ausf.A engine cover, with the difference being the air intake was made smaller to fit on the tank destroyer. Where the Panther’s radio antenna was attached to the hull of the tank, the Jagdpanther’s antenna was mounted on the back of the superstructure, next to the rear hatch. This left a hole in the engine cover, which was covered with a screwed-on plate.
May 1944: The monobloc gun was replaced with the two-piece gun, facilitating replacement of the worn barrel.
June 1944: A mount for a small 2-ton crane was planned for the roof of the vehicles.
The gun mantlet was changed so that a screw was at the top of the cast piece.
Later variation of the Jagdpanther, note the 'mushroom' mount for the crane and the Nahverteitigungswaffe
Note the ‘mushroom’ crane mount towards the back of the casemate, and the Nahverteidigungswaffe to the front and left of it.
September 1944: The OKH ordered manufacturers to stop using the Zimmerit protective coating on the tanks.
October 1944: Sheet metal pipes were installed over the exhaust, on the account of them glowing at night, possibly giving the tank’s position away.
The leading wheels of the Jagdpanther didn’t clean themselves, and as mud and snow gathered, tracks got thrown. New leading wheels of a bigger diameter were developed, reducing the amount of tracks thrown.
December 1944: The Jagdpanther started using the new type of engine cover provided for the Panther and “flame-destroyer” exhaust mufflers are installed, preventing mixtures of fuel and air in the exhaust from igniting.

Derivatives

In late 1944, plans had been made to mount the 128 mm (5.04 in) Pak 80 onto the Jagdpanther chassis. The new vehicle, known as the Jagdpanther mit 12.8 cm PaK 80, would have had a rear-mounted casemate and weighed in excess of 50 tonnes. The project never got past the blueprint phase and got shelved before the war ended.

Jagdpanther in action

The Jagdpanther mainly saw action one the Western front from its deployment in March 1944, with deployment to the Eastern front only occurring from January 1945 onwards. The first unit to receive the new Jagdpanther was the schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilung 654. Each Jagdpanther Kompanie was scheduled to receive 14 of the tanks destroyers, and an additional 3 command tanks for the battalion headquarters. Due to production problems, it wasn’t possible to bring the 654th to full strength before being sent to the front in June, 1944.

First blood

Jagdpanthers in France
The first action the Jagdpanthers saw was on the 30th of July, when they engaged a squadron of Churchill tanks near St. Martin de Bois. In a two-minute action, three Jagdpanthers managed to take out eleven Churchills, before an additional squadron of Churchills rushed in to help. The 6th Guards tank brigade reported the capture of two Jagdpanthers, which had been left behind due to track damage. Nonetheless, this encounter showed the strength of the new tank destroyer and helped cement its reputation as a threat to any tank that encountered it.

Ardennes Offensive

In preparation for the Ardennes Offensive, the OKH had planned to fully equip five tank hunter battalions with Jagdpanthers. Three of the five units were already at the front and as such weren’t at full combat strength. Due to supply problems, only 27 of the 56 planned Jagdpanthers made it to the battalions before the start of the offensive, with only 17 of them being operational.

Eastern front

Many of the tanks that were sent to the Eastern front weren’t destroyed by Soviet troops, but at the hands of their crew. The main problems that plagued the Panzer divisions were a lack of spare parts, fuel and delays in the production process that prevented more Jagdpanthers from reaching the front. In January 1945, the 563rd s.H. Pz.Jg.Abteilung managed to take out 53 tanks whilst only losing four Jagdpanzer IVs and one Jagdpanther to enemy fire. The bulk of their losses were credited to tanks being blown up lest they fell into enemy hands. For example, a stunning 12 Jagdpanthers and 17 Jagdpanzer IVs were destroyed by their crews in the 563rd alone. The rapidly deteriorating situation meant that many of the Jagdpanther crews sent to the front in 1945 had received little or no training, which reduced the already impaired effectiveness of the tank destroyer battalions.

An article by Thomas Verplancke

Links and sources

Walter J. Spielberger; Hilary L. Doyle; Thomas L. Jentz (2007), Heavy Jagdpanzer: Development – Production – Operations, Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing
Peter Chamberlain; Hilary L. Doyle (1973), AFV Weapons Profile No. 55: German Self-Propelled Weapons,

Jagdpanther specifications

Dimensions L-W-H 6.86m (9.86m with gun) x 3.28m (3.42m with Schürzen) x 2.51m
22ft 6in (32ft 5in with gun) x 10ft 9in (11ft 3in with Schürzen) x 8ft 11in
Track Width 66 cm
Track length 15 cm
Total weight, battle ready 45,500 kg (100,300 lbs)
Crew 5 (driver, commander, hull gunner/radio operator, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Maybach HL230 P30 V-12 petrol 700 PS (690 hp, 515 kW)
Suspension Torsion bar
Speed (road) 46 km/h (29 mph)
Range 160 km (100 mi)
Armament 88 mm (3.46 in) Pak 43/3 L/71 (57 rounds)
Hull MG 34
Nahverteidigungswaffe (on later models)
Armor 40-100 mm (1.57-3.94 in)
Total production 415 (generally accepted figure)

Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Early Jagdpanther in Normandy
Early Jagdpanther, sPzJgAbt 654, France, Normandy, summer 1944.
Jagdpanther, France, 1944
Jagdpanther (early type) of sPzAbt 654, France, spring 1944.
Jagdpanther in the Ruhr pocket
Jagdpanther, 1st companie, schwere Panzer Abteilung 654, Ruhr pocket, March 1945.
Jagdpanther, 19th SS Panzerdivision
Early type Jagdpanther attached to the 19th SS Panzerdivision, 1944.
Jagdpanther of the Grossdeutschland Panzerdivision
Jagdpanther of the Führer Grenadier Brigade, Panzerdivision Grossdeutschland, fall 1944.
Another Jagdpanther in Normandy
Jagdpanther of the sPzAbt 654, Normandy, summer 1944.
Another Jagdpanther of the SpzAbt 654 Fr 1944
Late type, schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 654, Normandy, France, summer 1944.
Jagdpanther during the winter of 1944
Jagdpanther, late type, unknown unit, France, winter 1944.
Jagdpanther during the Ardennes offensive
Jagdpanther, 1st Companie, 560th Heeres Schwere Jagdpanzer Abteilung DomBütt, Ardennes, 20 December 1944.
Another Jagdpanther participating in the Ardennes offensive
Jagdpanther (unknown sPzAbt), Ardennes, December 1944.
Jagdpanther in the Ruhr area
Jagdpanther of the sPzAbt 654, Ruhr area, March 1945.
Jagdpanther on the Eastern Front
Jagdpanther (unknown sPzAbt), Eastern Front, early 1945.
Another Jagdpanther on the Eastern Front
Jagdpanther (unknown sPzAbt), Eastern front, early 1945.
Jagdpanther in 1945
Unknown unit, Eastern Front, 1945.

All illustrations by Tank Encylopedia’s own David Bocquelet

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

7.5cm Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO)

Nazi Germany (1943) Tank destroyer – 80-90 est. built

From Hauler to Fighter

As the German army faced ever increasing numbers of Allied armour, more ways were found to place anti-tank weaponry on already existing chassis, in order to try and counter the Allied numerical superiority. The Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) was no exception to the armed conversions that were built upon so many German vehicles at the time.
The decision was made in 1943 to take the well proven battle tractor and place a Pak 40/4 on its back, in order to provide more mobile anti-tank capabilities on the front line. After only a very limited amount were produced, it was made clear that this was one conversion that was not a successful fighting vehicle.
The original Raupenschlepper Ost tractor/carrier with its trailer.
The original Raupenschlepper Ost tracked lorry with its trailer.

Origins in the mud

The development of this vehicle is directly linked to the development of the RSO tractor built by Steyr from 1942 to 1945. This tractor was developed to meet the needs of the Wehrmacht for bringing supplies and weapons to the front lines in the poor conditions that were met on the Eastern front. Many of the battles there were far from any road, and if roads did exist, they were often in very poor shape, especially in spring.
It was soon found that existing vehicles were not satisfactory for bringing supplies and the newer larger anti-tank weapons through this adverse terrain, thus the designs for the RSO were created. By 1945, about 27,000 RSO tractors had been produced.
German 7.5 cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun being towed by a RSO Raupenschlepper Ost (East) Tractor, Yugoslavia, Sep 1943
German 7.5cm PaK 40 anti-tank gun being towed by a RSO Raupenschlepper Ost Tractor, Yugoslavia, Sep 1943
Development of an armed version of the RSO began only a few months after the tractor was in service. It was found that, due the rough nature of cross country driving, the sights of a gun being towed behind an RSO would be knocked out of calibration. Due to this, experimentation was undergone with mounting several guns on the bed of the RSO, including 75 mm (2.95 in), 105 mm (4.13 in) and 150 mm (5.9 in) weapons.
The intent would be to unload the gun at the front with a collapsible crane. This would allow for quick transport of weapons, but would still require time for the unloading and set up of the gun, and did not allow for any firing of the weapon while still mounted on the tractor. Though a few trial vehicles were made during these tests, none entered mass production
In the summer of 1943, the need for gun mounted on an RSO that could fire without having to remove the gun from the chassis was seen. A version made with a low silhouette cab (with only lower body protection for the driver and co-driver), along with collapsible sides on the cargo deck, was designed to carry a 75 mm (2.95 in) Pak 40/4 gun that could traverse 360⁰. When Hitler was shown this design, he ordered that it be put on high priority for production, as he saw in it an excellent balance of mobility, firepower and economics, which would provide an excellent tank hunter to the front.
On October 1st 1943, a prototype was presented to Hitler, after which production plans to produce 400 a month was put in place, despite there being no combat trials yet. However, very few were ever made. It is unknown how many of this RSO variant were produced, but it is generally believed to be less than 100.
Some information exists showing that Steyr was designing a new prototype immediately after the first design was approved for production, under the name “PzJag K43”. This would be a new generation of RSO tank killer that would have mounted the larger Pak 43, as well as have a wider chassis with a more powerful and less noisy engine. However, all work was halted in late 1943, when Steyr was ordered to stop working on tracked vehicle designs.
 The sides of the Raupenschlepper Ost (caterpillar tractor east) SPG folded down to produce a larger platform for the crew of the 7.5cm Pak 40 gun.
The sides of the Raupenschlepper Ost (caterpillar tractor east) SPG folded down to produce a larger platform for the crew of the 7.5cm Pak 40 gun.

Use in combat

The first deployment of this vehicle was with Army Group Center in January 1944. Some were sent to the 1st Ski-jäger Brigade, and some were sent to Army Group North, to Armee-Pz. Jägerabteilungen 751 and 752. In the 1st Ski Jäger Brigade, the RSO with Pak 40 was incorporated into the 13th Panzerjäger-Flak company, where it was deployed in 2 platoons with an infantry escort platoon.
Inside an RSO Pak platoon there were 3 RSO Paks, 1 supply vehicle, a Kübelwagen for the platoon commander and a Kettenkrad. In action, this vehicle was said to be less than desirable. It was slow, noisy and the engine had a tendency to overheat in warm weather. The lack of armor and high silhouette was also an issue, as many crews were lost when they attracted fire of any kind.
The small fighting platform made it difficult to work in an effective manner, and the floor lockers for ammunition storage were difficult to open when the weapon was in use. The vehicle earned the nickname “Rollender Sarg Ost”, a play on the RSO abbreviation. This nickname translates to “rolling coffin east”, reflecting the thoughts of the soldiers who operated it.
This fully tracked, lightweight vehicle was conceived in response to the poor performance of wheeled and half-tracked vehicles in the mud and snow
The RSO SPG fully tracked, lightweight vehicle was conceived in response to the poor performance of wheeled and half-tracked vehicles in the mud and snow.

An article by Eric Matzner

Sources

Nuts and Bolts Vol. 9. 7,5cm PaK40/4 AUF. GEP Selbstfahrlafette Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO). Peter Kwok, Heiner F. Doske.
RSO article. Germany’s Raupenschlepper Ost 7.5cm PaK 40/4 auf. RSO. Rick Lawler 2011.
Achtung panzer article
Article. 2015.
Article. 2010
RSO SPGs on www.tank-hunter.com
Surviving Raupenschlepper Ost list

Raupenschlepper Ost specifications

Dimensions (L W H) 4.17m x 1.7m x 2.49m (with canopy) (13’8″ x 5’7″ x 8’2″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 5.2 tons (10,400 lbs)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Steyr V8 3.5l 8-cylinder, 85 hp
Suspension Leaf springs
Speed (road) 17 km/h (10.5 mph)
Range 250 km (155 mi)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) Pak 40/4 L/46, 28 rounds
Armor 5-10 mm (0.24-0.35 in)
Total production 80-90 in 1943-1944

Original Raupenschlepper Ost supply vehicle
The original Raupenschlepper Ost supply vehicle
Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost, vermicelli livery
Pak-40 auf Raupenschlepper-Ost, vermicelli livery
Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost, ambush camouflage, 1944
Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost, ambush camouflage, 1944.
Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost with its side panels panels down
Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost with its side panels panels down.

Video

Gallery

7.5cm Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) with sides and canopy up
7.5cm Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) with sides and canopy up
 Next Page Home Back www.MooreTanks.com Raupenschlepper Ost RSO 75mm PaK 40 German WW2 tank destroyer with canopy removed and sides down to increase the size of the fighting platform.
Raupenschlepper Ost RSO 75mm PaK 40 German WW2 tank destroyer with canopy removed and sides down to increase the size of the fighting platform.

Surviving vehicles

Raupenschlepper Ost RSO 75mm PaK 40 German WW2 tank destroyer
Raupenschlepper Ost RSO 75mm PaK 40 German WW2 tank destroyer at the German Tank museum in Munster.
RSO SPG at the German Tank Museum
Surviving RSO Pak 40 SPG at the German Panzermuseum in Munster without its canopy
Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) 01 tracked lorry at the Auto + Technik Museum, Sinsheim, Germany
Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO) 01 tracked lorry at the Auto + Technik Museum, Sinsheim, Germany. Photo by Walter Schwabe.
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer

nazi germany Nazi Germany (1944) Tank hunter – 2,827 built

Škoda’s tank hunter

When Nazi Germany ruthlessly seized the industrial jewels of Czechoslovakia prior to the war, it also acquired a treasure of tank manufacturing skills that was to provide the Nazi war machine with more than 5,000 extremely reliable tanks during the war. The whole family was derived from a single model: the Škoda/Praga Lt vz.38, or Panzer 38(t) in German service, a light tank which was used until 1943-44, but also gave birth to one of the most prolific German tank hunters of the war, the Jagdpanzer 38(t) or, as it is commonly known today, the Hetzer.

G13 modified to look like a Hetzer on display at the Overloon War Museum in the Netherlands.


Hello, dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!


Compared to this vehicle, 2nd/3rd generation tank hunters were based on mediums or heavy tank chassis. The nimblest of these was the StuG III Ausf.G, based on the now obsolescent Panzer III chassis. Light tanks had served to develop the first generation of tanks hunters, improvised in 1941-42 with bulky, tall superstructures, while the AT gun was just basically welded on. But, overall, the main goal of this new tank hunter was to be readily available in larger quantities, cheaper, and with a proven chassis to avoid the problems observed with the more ambitious and complex designs derived from the “big cats”.
The very reliable Panzer 38(t) chassis already served as a basis for the prolific Marder III, declined into three major types. In 1943, the StuG III provided the bulk of German tanks hunters, and was quite a success due to its low profile. However, engineers could do even more in terms of protection, low profile and cost-efficiency, and the Hetzer did exactly this, belonging to the late war, third generation of German tank destroyers. It was, of sort, the “little brother” of the Jagdpanzer IV. Moreover, it was produced in Czechoslovakia, relatively spared at the time by the Allied bombings, although that was to change.

Inspiration: The Romanian Mareșal

Among the early inspiration sources for the casemate shape and light tank accommodation, the Romanian Mareșal is often cited. It was developed by the Ateliere Leonida. This vehicle was born after the Romanian encounters with the Russian T-34 in Ukraine, which radically changed their opinion on armor and especially the possibilities of sloped armour. From there a project was born, which tried to create a tank hunter that would be extremely well-protected over an existing, readily available captured light tank chassis (the T-60), while keeping the weight down. It was achieved by giving the hull an extremely sloped, all-side armour. This resulted in the 50 mm (1.97 in) armor plates offering 100 mm (3.94 in) of effective protection against direct fire, which provided this small tank destroyer with the heavy tank protection level.
Six prototypes were built (M-00, M-01, M-02, M-03, M-04, M-05) between December 1942 and January 1944, but, after the 23 August coup d’etat, the plans and the remaining prototypes were seized by the Soviet army. Its main armament was a 7.5 cm (2.95 in) DT-UDR Resita Model 1943 and secondary ZB-53 7.92 mm (0.31 in) machine gun. It was propelled by a Hotchkiss H-39 120 hp engine (10 hp/t) and transmission. It was based on a modified T-60 chassis, but with Rogifer suspensions, comprising four stamped roadwheels per side. The top speed was 45 km/h (28 mph) on flat and 25 km/h (15 mph) cross-country.

Development

Although the development of the Mareșal and the Hetzer advanced in parallel in 1943 (it was even estimated that common production would take place in the future), the Germans were quick to have a finished prototype ready for production. The first wooden mock-up was ready in January 1944, presented and accepted by the Waffenamt. A decision was made to mount the 7.5 cm Pak 39, shared with the early versions of the Jagdpanzer IV. Oberst Thomale signed an agreement for the delivery of the first three prototypes in March 1944, for pre-production trials. Development then went at breakneck speed -in fact it remains a record- the prototypes were built, but since they were based on an already well proven chassis, the model was accepted into service without a pre-series or further testing.
Wooden mock-up of the Jagdpanzer 39(t) Hetzer
Wooden mock-up of the Jagdpanzer 39(t) Hetzer with muzzle brake.

Production

On 18 January 1944, Hitler signed an order for the production of 1000 vehicles even before the final blueprints were delivered. A very optimistic schedule was defined, which required growing production capacity from BMM and, later, Škoda, revving up from 20 vehicles in April, to 200 in July and 500 in March 1945. It should be noted that, together, the factories never delivered as much as 300 vehicles monthly. The maximal output was performed by BMM, 155 in a month.

Another G13 modified to look like a Hetzer on display at the HMG Wheels and Tracks exhibition, Vienna, 2010.
Nevertheless, the first production Hetzers were delivered in March 1944, as scheduled, and accepted by the Waffenamt in early April. The first 20 were demonstrated in front of Hitler on April, 20. However, production goals were significantly hampered by the delivery of the gun mounts. There were a few corrections to be made also, quickly detected in the first batches: leaking gaskets, deficient air filtration, carburetors, governor, incorrect spark plug types and the layout of the connecting lines between the fuel tanks.

Design

Despite its appearance, the Hetzer was not built directly over the Panzer 38(t) chassis. The latter had to be widened and lengthened in order to support the weight of the casemate, and had modified suspensions with an up-rated engine. It had the same combination of large roadwheels and improved leaf spring suspensions units (two pairs), but only one return roller per side. The drive sprockets were at the front and idlers at the rear. The latter were later simplified, with six drilled holes, although most of the production vehicles used the standard model.

Details up close, rear.

Mobility

The engine was the new 160 hp@2,800 rpm (118 kW) Praga AC/2 6-cylinder, connected to a Praga-Wilson gearbox with 5 forward and 1 reverse gears. Along with the reinforced suspension, in order to cope with the weight of the new 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, this engine compensated for the overall weight increase, which went from 9.5 tonnes on the original light tank to the 15.7 tonnes of a Hetzer in battle order. Top speed was apparently still 42 km/h (26 km/h), which appears optimistic, since the power to weight ratio fell to only 10 hp/tonne, compared to 13.15 hp/tonne on the Panzer 38(t). Cross-country speed was probably no more than 15 km/h (9 mph) at best, like the model it was based on. It was far short from the original specifications.

Protection

In terms of protection, the big advantage of the Hetzer was its highly sloped casemate, with a 60 mm (2.36 in) thick plate on the front, which was inclined 60 degrees from the vertical, and therefore offered around 120 mm (4.72 in) of effective protection. Needless to say, Allied tank guns had a hard time penetrating it, except for the fabled British 17-pounder. The lower part of the hull was still of the same thickness and sloped (hardened steel E22), but the sides were only 20 mm (0.79 in) thick and made of low quality alloy, but inclined at 40°. The roof was only made of an 8 mm (0.31 in) thick plate, proof only against shrapnel. The belly was 10 mm (0.39 in) thick.

Accommodation and crew

Due to the limited area defined by the narrow chassis/hull width and highly sloped casemate, internal space was very cramped. The driver, gunner and loader were all placed on the left side, in a row. The only escape hatch there was a small trap below the loader, barely accessible by the two others. Due to the main gun being positioned on the far right of the hull, the loader had to work in an awkward position, which was not practical and obliged him to reach under or across the gun and into the recoil path of the gun in order to access the safety lock or the ammunition, whereas the commander, installed in a niche at the rear, was cutoff from the others.
Vision was generally poor, there were twin periscopes of the driver in the front plate (it was later discovered they formed a shot trap), the main slf ZF sight for the gunner, a periscopic sight for the machine-gun, another for the loader, plus the SF14Z scissors periscope for the commander. The vehicle was literally blind on the right side, which was especially problematic since protection there was minimal. Attempts to correct this with a fully traversing periscope (Starr) for the commander never took place.
Tooling stowage was external and comprised a jack, jack wooden block and wire cutter stowed on the right track guard and wrecking bar on the left. 8 spare track links were often attached on the rear deck, while 6 others and two towing cables were fastened on the rear back plate.

Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer crossing a village next to loaded horses/mules, KBZ Army Group South, Ukraine

Modifications

The first series was equipped with horizontal mufflers and standard twelve hole idler wheels. They also featured a narrow main gun mantlet and flat plate side armor skirts hooked on welded brackets. Also, on the earliest vehicles, both fuel tanks were filled via the same fuel port, located on the left side. This was among the first things corrected, but the main problem was the Hetzer was critically nose heavy (which is why it never received a muzzle brake).
Fixes during production
– Modified exhausts with a vertically oriented tube and flame arrester (replacing the muffler)
– Wider mantlet for the main gun (to give slightly more traverse), but lighter
– Improved elevation/traverse mechanisms
– Inwards angled side skirt corners (to avoid snagging vegetation)
– Better filler port
– Gratings over the air intake openings (to avoid vegetation being sucked into the engine compartment)
– Mechanical pump (instead of electrical)
– Riveted road wheels instead of boltened (and later welded).
– Strengthened leaf spring suspension packs (9 mm thick leaf bands)
– Improved heating arrangements in the fighting compartment (winter batteries)
– Double arm mount for the commander’s own observation telescope, hatch in two pieces
– Better ammo storage (for five more rounds)
– Hand grips welded on the ceiling of the fighting compartment over the driver’s seat
– Better final drive assemblies
– New simplified idler wheel with 10, 6 or 4 drilled lightening holes.

Variants

Hetzer “Starr”

The Starr was characterized by a rigid mount for the main gun. It was tailored for simplified mass-production, and therefore the gun recoil system was entirely eliminated. The recoil had to be absorbed by the chassis and suspensions. Aiming was entirely performed by the same transmission, but coupled to a new Tatra 8 cylinder diesel engine in development. Also, in order to cope with poor vision, the commander received a rotating periscope. Ultimately 10 were built, but later seven were converted back as standard Hetzers after the war because the Starr tubes had worn out. The Jagdpanzer 38 Starr was also meant to receive later a longer L/70 gun, but it came too late to see action.

Jagdpanzer 38(d)

This final, transitional version had a wider hull, better side protection (50 mm/1.97 in), same rigid gun mount as the Starr, but with the L/70 gun, and the new 8-cyl Tatra engine. It was an even simpler version of the Starr and another step towards the planned E 10. At least 10,000 were expected to have been produced by BMM before the fall of 1945.

Flammpanzer 38(t)

The German army needed more flame-throwing tanks for their December 1944 winter offensive in Ardennes, Operation Watch on the Rhine and the Operation North Wind in Rhineland-Palatinate, Alsace and Lorraine. Twenty Jagdpanzer 38(t) tank hunter chassis were fitted with a 14 mm Flammenwerfer flamethrower gun, instead of its normal 7.5cm PaK 39 anti-tank gun. A tube was installed on the front of the flamethrower to make the vehicle look like the standard Jagdpanzer 38(t) in an effort to confuse the enemy.

Bergepanzer 38(t)

A light recovery vehicle created especially for the Hetzer and light vehicles of its class. Between 64 and 106 (even 120) were converted until the end of the war (chassis numbers 321001-323000-323001), equipped with jack handbars, winch, steel cables, wooden support planks and a rear hydraulic leg for a better grip. Its only armament was a single 7.92 mm (0.31 in) Rheinmetall MG 34 or 42 mounted on the front arm.
Panzer 38(t) variant the Bergepanzer 38(t)
Panzer 38(t) variant the Bergepanzer 38(t) with dozer blade deployed

Befehlspanzer 38(t)

The standard command variant. Nothing really special except for a 30W FuG 8 radio set and extra whip antennas. It was still armed the same way as regular Hetzers, making it even more cramped inside.

Jagdpanzer 38(t) of 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer, Hungary, 1944 – Credits: Bundesarchiv.

Bergepanzer 38(t) mit 30 mm MK 103 autocannon anti-aircraft gun

A number of Bergepanzer 38(t) light armoured recovery vehicles were converted into anti-aircraft flakpanzers. They were fitted with a 30 mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MK 103 autocannon. The letters MK are an abbreviation for the word ‘Maschinenkanone’.
AA Bergepanzer 38(T)
In the background you can see a Bergepanzer 38(t) mit 30 mm MK 103 autocannon anti-aircraft gun with its gun raised.
This weapon was originally designed to be mounted in German combat aircraft and intended to have a dual purpose as an anti-tank and air-to-air fighting weapon. This gun was also used on the five prototype Flakpanzer IV “Kugelblitz. If necessary the gun could also be used in a ground support roll against enemy troops and vehicles.
AA Bergepanzer 38(T)A Bergepanzer 38(t) mit 30 mm MK 103 autocannon anti-aircraft gun

Other experimental variants

The most daring propositions were a model of assault gun with a 105 mm (4.13 in) StuH 42 or a 120 mm (4.72 in) mortar for infantry support. Another “long” version was given the 7.5 cm KwK 42 L/70 gun from the Panther. There was also an AA variant with a 20 mm (0.79 in) KwK 38 Flak turret. The war ended before any of these were put into production.
Waffentraeger Krupp-Ardelt: 88 mm (3.46 in) PaK 43 tank hunter which borrowed the suspension and roadwheels from the Hetzer. One real size mockup built (July 1944). Production was expected to start in October, but the program cancelled.
12.8 cm Waffentraeger 38(d): Was meant to use the lengthened and strengthened Panzer 38(d) chassis.
Vollkettenaufklarer 38(t) (Kätzchen): A reconnaissance APC/IFV heavily tested, but never produced. Several prototypes of the regular model armed with 1 or 2 2cm Flak 38 guns and several of the Kätzchen APC were built and tested in late 1944.
Flakpanzer 38(t) Kugelblitz: A proposition to mount the twin Flak turret from the Panzer IV Kugelblitz on the Jagdpanzer 38(t) chassis.
Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) mit 7.5cm KwK L/48 (Pzkpfw IV) Turm: A reamed Panzer 38(t) (reinforced and stretched out) armed with the Panzer IV turret.
7.5 cm Stu.Kan. auf Pz.Kpfw. 38(t): Tank hunter prototype (one photo), possibly used on the Eastern front (Panzer Tracts No. 7-2)

The Hetzer in action

It was originally planned to test the vehicle as early as April 1944, but delays ensured the first batch of Jagdpanzer 38(t)s reached the ordnance depot in May. They were tested by Wa Prüf 2 and joined training groups in the summer, until July. The first 45 entered service with the Heeres Panzerjäger-Abteilung 731 on 4-13 July 1944 (Army Group North, Eastern Front, later Mitte). One of the first engagement occurred in Warsaw in August 1944, during the famous uprising. At least one was captured, renamed and restored by Partisans, but never used (“Chwat”).
Other units that received it were the 741st (September), 561st (January 1945) and 744th (February). The 741st was eventually split in two, one half being shipped to the Western Front for operation Wacht am Rhein. They were organically attached to infantry divisions and issued to Jäger, Kavalerie and Grenadiers corps within the infantry, rather than independent units. By late 1944, each company was given 14 Hetzers, but, after February 1945, this number fell to 10.
In the Ardennes, no less than 18 companies participated in the offensive (295 in all). On 30 December, only 131 were reported operational. Other independent units also received Hetzers instead of other, more powerful, tank hunters, mostly due to production delays, namely the 16th SS Panzergrenadier Division, the Abteilung Jüteborg and Schliesen, FHH PZd and PZGd, even the StuG Brigade 266. There was also plans to deliver these to Allies, but while Romania never received a single one, Hungary got 75, which arrived by train between December 1944 and January 1945. They fought in support of Heeresgruppe Sud.
An interesting experiment began with the the constitution of the mixed independent Pz.Jagd.Brigade 104 as a hunter-killer unit on the Eastern Front, but it was short lived. The tank hunters were scattered around in order to plug holes in depleted units all along the Eastern Front. By March 1945, only 359 Hetzers were reported operational, out of 529 still in the registry.
From German reports, kill/loss ratios were excellent. Early on, one of the first units engaged claimed 20 kills with no loss. Another unit, also on the Eastern front, reported 57 kills without losses, engaging IS-2s at 800 m (880 yd) and more. It was also reported that the whole unit reached its objective, 160 km (100 mi) from its base, without a single breakdown en route. Crews were also delighted by the frontal protection and remote “Rundumsfeuer” machine gun.
Little known, however, were the Hetzers deployed in Northern Italy. Four companies operated 56 Hetzers there in 1945. At the same date, they reported only 37 operational Panzerjagers, while only 137 were still enlisted on the Western front. This was, noticeably, one of the highest operational percentage of all German tanks units. Later in the war, however, officer mismanagement of the Hetzer and poor training took their toll on units.

Abandoned Hetzer inspected by US troops, Belgium, winter 1944-45.
Generally speaking, the Hetzer was a good generic tank hunter. It was well armed and well protected from the front, presenting a small silhouette and narrow target. It could be concealed quite easily and was difficult to spot even after firing and, crucially, was also very reliable. However, it had shortcomings too, that were only partially compensated by its great availability. From 1944 and until the end of the war, it became the most current German tank hunter, not counting the heavier StuG III. In October 1944, Wa Prüf 1’s report on penetration values showed that it could be defeated by the Cromwell’s and Churchill’s 75 mm (2.95 in) gun from up to 2500 to 3600 m (1.5-2 mi) from the sides and rear. However, it could be penetrated by the late M4 76(W) Sherman’s M1A1 gun from 800 m (880 yd) from the front and from closer than 100 m (110 yd) through the cast mantlet. But it could defeat most versions of the M4, Cromwell and Churchill at any angle from as much as 1,700-1,800 m (1900-2000 yd).
The Hetzer was also slow and completely blind from the right side, which was a liability in urban combat. Many were captured this way and it was never really corrected.

Hetzer stuck at a barricade, Warsaw Uprising, August 1944.

Soviet Army capture the factories

When the Red Army liberated Czechoslovakia they conducted a stock take of what was in production at the Škoda factories at the time they came under ‘new management’. A report was filed on the possibility of completing the vehicles found at Škoda factories. The auditor found 1,200 unfinished Jagdpanzer 38(t) tank-destroyers “G-13” chassis. It was worked out that 150 of them could be finished from the parts available. The remaining 1,050 vehicles were 45%-60% percent completed and had only 78 main guns available between them. This report showed that production of the Hetzer chassis was outstripping the manufacturing capacity to build the main gun in sufficient quantities.

Other operators

Swiss G13

After the war, Switzerland obtained from Czechoslovakia no less than 158 post-war built Praga ST-II/III, and, after extensive modifications, they were renamed G13. Differences included the muzzle brake fitted on the main gun, loader and commander positions swapped, rotating MG optics (commander’s cupola) and external MG mount on the rear deck. About two thirds received a Swiss Saurer diesel engine in 1952-53 and the vehicles were maintained in service until 1970. After being phased out, most were purchased by museums and private collectors, mostly converted/painted back as German Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzers. At least four are in running conditions today.

Czechoslovakian ST-1

The Czech Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzers (several dozens were captured in and around Budapest in 1945) were designated ST-1, for Stihac Tanku or “Tank Hunter”. 249 were pressed into service. There was also a school driver version designated ST-III/CVP (50 vehicles), the Praga VT-III armored recovery vehicle and the PM-1 flamethrower tank. 50 existing Hetzers were to be modified with a flame thrower turret, but the program was cancelled.
Czech Hetzers
During the Prague uprising 5th-9th May 1945 freedom fighters captured this German Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer. It did not have a gun fitted but in its place it was armed with a German anti-tank Panzerfaust. (photo capture taken from the film called ‘Květnová revoluce v Praze 1945’ held in the Národní filmový archive)

Romanian Maresal tank hunter
Romanian Mareșal, 1943.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Jagdpanzer 38(t), the first command model built with Fgst.nr.321001 radio.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Jagdpanzer 38(t) “Chwat” (Daredevil) captured by Polish insurgents. An early production tank, Warsaw, August 1944.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Hungarian early type Jagdpanzer 38(t), 1944.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Early type Jagdpanzer 38(t) “Black 233”, western front, one of the earliest captured by the Allies.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Hungarian Jagdpanzer 38(t), winter 1944-45.
Hungarian Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer 1944
Hungarian Hetzer, 1944.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Hungarian Hetzer, 1945.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Unknown unit, Bohemia, spring 1945.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Jagdpanzer 38(t) of the 11th SS Panzerdivision “Nordland”, winter 1944-45.
Ambush camo
Jagdpanzer 38(t) with the spotted ambush camouflage, Germany, April-May 1945.
Czech Hetzer
Czech Hetzer, in service by May 1945 with the Russian Liberation Army (Русская освободительная армия)
Lake Balaton
Hungarian Jagdpanzer 38(t) “Mokus” tank destroyer, Lake Balaton battle, 1945.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Hetzer captured by the Russian army, Czechoslovakia, 1945.
Hetzer Italy 1945
Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer of an unknown Panzerjäger unit in Italy, 1945
Czech insurgents Jagdpanzer
Hetzer captured by Czech insurgents, Prague, May 1945.
Bulgarian Jagdpanzer-38
Bulgarian Jagdpanzer 38(t), March 1945.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Unknown unit, ambush camouflage, Germany, April-May 1945
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Unknown unit, Bohemia, 1945.

Variants

Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Befehlspanzerjäger 38(t), 741st Antitank Battalion, Eastern Front, 1944.
Flammpanzer 38(t)
Flammpanzer 38(t), 352nd Panzer-Flamm-Kompanie, Army Group G, Belgium, December 1944.
Jagdpanzer-38 Starr
Jagdpanzer 38(t) Starr (1945). Being rather disappointing, the six built of this much simplified versions were converted back as regular Hetzers.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Panzerjäger 38(t) mit 75 mm L/70.
Jagdpanzer-38_Hetzer
Swiss G13 in 1960, notice the spare roadwheel should be on the other side. For identification only.

Derivatives

Bergepanzer 38
Bergepanzer 38(t).
Aufklarungspanzer mit 7,5 cm KwK-37 L/23
Another, more common type of Aufklärungspanzer mit 7,5 cm KwK-37 L/23.
Aufklarungspanzer mit 7,5 cm KwK-37 L/23
Rare Jagdpanzer 38(t) mit 7,5 cm KwK-37 L/23, Battle of the Bulge, winter 1944-1945.
Vollkettenaufklärer 38(t)/Kätzchen APC (1945)
Vollkettenaufklärer 38(t) prototype.

Was it called the ‘Hetzer’ during WW2?

It is often stated that first use of the name Hetzer was in a letter from Heinz Guderian to Hitler. In it he stated that the name had spontaneously arisen from the crews manning the vehicles. This is what most historians base their naming on in their works, and state that the vehicle was never identified as such in official German Military documents. That last part is NOT true. Look at this wartime report dated April 1945 the word Hetzer is used.
Hetzer used in WW2 document
In the eighth line down you will see the entry Jg.Pz 38 t Hetzer. It is strange why this SS Officer listed one Jg.Pz.38t in short term repair as a “Hetzer”, but later listed ten Jagdpanzer 38(t) SPGs as just Jg.Pz.38t and did not include the name. Seven of those ten are shown as operational, one in short term repair and one in long term repair. (Source German Archives)
In a monthly HWA report on German weapons in early 1944 it was called StuG n.A. mit 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48 auf Fgst Pz.Kpf. Wg 38(t) (StuG n.A. = Sturmgeschütz neuer Art – assault gun new version). The German term ‘neuer Art’ is exclusively used during design, it was not used for a production vehicles. It does not get called the usual Jagdpanzer 38 mit 7.5 cm Pak 39 L/48 auf (Sd.Kfz.138/2) until November 44.
monthly HWA report on German weapons in early 1944
Monthly HWA reports on German weapons in March 1944 and November 1944. (Steven Zaloga)
To summarise, the Jagdpanzer 38(t) was not officially called the Hetzer during WW2. It is believed that the crews used this nickname for this anti-tank self-propelled gun during the war. Although most official wartime documents do not use the word Hetzer, as can be seen in the first of the two documents, a few did.

Did the Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer have a muzzle brake?

The answer is yes, no, then yes. A muzzle brake is designed to increase the life expectancy of a gun barrel by direction some of the explosive force of the shell gasses side ways rather than just forward. The wooden mock up of the prototype was fitted with a muzzle brake. The early production Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer’s were fitted with a muzzle brake but these were removed by crews and later production vehicles did not have them fitted. It was found they produced too much dust and smoke which gave away their ambush position. This was often fatal. The post war Swiss G-13 version had a muzzle brake fitted.
Early production Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer with muzzle brake.Early production Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer with muzzle brake.

The G-13 name

G-13 – It is just the internal manufacturer’s code name for the Jagdpanzer 38(t) in the Skoda Factory. A WW2 wartime Skoda Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer was called a G-13 in the factory and on all internal documentation.
G = tank destroyer, 1 = light, 3 = model i.e number 3.
G-11 was Panzerjaeger I,
G-12 was Marder III.
Postwar – the 75 mm PaK 40 with a muzzel brake was used instead of the 75mm PaK 39 on Jagdpanzer 38 (t). The Skoda Factory did not have access to PaK 39 guns and used the PaK 40. In the Swiss Army this tank destroyer was known by the factory code G-13 rather than the Jagdpanzer 38(t) or Hetzer name.

Gallery


A ST-I tank destroyer, practically a Czech post-war production Hetzer, in running condition at an exhibition at Lešany, Czech Republic.

Swiss G13, Steel Parade, 2006. The G13 was kept in service right into the 1970s.
Chwat, polish insurgent

Video about German assault guns

Jagdpanzer 38(t) specifications

Dimensions (L W H) 4.83m (without gun) x 2.59m x 1.87 m (15’10” x 8’6″ x 6’1″ ft.in)
Total weight, battle ready 15.75 metric tonnes (34,722 lbs)
Armament 75 mm (2.95 in) PaK 39 L/48, 41 rounds
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34, 1,200 rounds
Armor 8 to 60 mm (0.3 – 2.36 in)
Crew 4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
Propulsion Praga 6-cyl gas. 160 hp@2,800 rpm (118 kW), 10 hp/t
Speed 42 km/h (26 mph)
Suspension Leaf springs
Range 177 km (110 mi), 320 l
Total production 2,827

Links and resources about the Hetzer

The Hetzer on Wikipedia
Pfahrer, Swiss website about the Hetzer
Article about the Hetzer Starr
The Hetzer on Achtung Panzer
The Shadocks – Surviving Hetzer/G13s (pdf)
Osprey New Vanguard: The Jagdpanzer 38(t) (Doyle/Jentz/Badrocke)
Panzer Tracts 7-3, Panzerjägers (Doyle/Jentz)
Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Categories
WW2 German Tank Destroyers

Panzerjäger Tiger (P) Ferdinand

ww2 German TanksGermany (1942) Heavy tank hunter – 91 built

Background: Porsche’s losing Tiger

When the Tiger project was first announced in May 1941, Porsche did not take long to submit a very personal and original design, at first as a blueprint, then ordered as the prototype VK 45.01(P) and built at the Nibelungenwerk factory in Sankt Valentin, Austria. Porsche was placed in competition with Henschel after 21st May 1941, also asked to submit designs for a 45 ton heavy tank, later known as the famous Tiger. The VK 45.01(P) made its debut trials before being carried at the Kummersdorf testing grounds for the official trials headed by Hitler in April 1942. The Henschel prototype, the VK 45.01(H), fared way better than the Porsche vehicle, that suffered breakdowns. However, initially, the Porsche was given as the favorite. But the technical choices made, especially the two engines that powered the petrol-electric drive, which had accumulated too many teething problems, led to the cancellation of the Porsche project, in favor of the more conventional Henschel proposition. However, after an order from July 1941, 100 chassis had already been manufactured. There was no way they could be equipped with Krupp’s Tiger turret, as these were reserved for the Henschel vehicles. Porsche was left then with these chassis, and proposed to convert them to SPGs, at first as heavy howitzer/mortar carrier.


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Elefant at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds

Conversion as a tank hunter

Eventually, on September 22nd of 1942, an official order came to convert the chassis into heavy tank hunters, armed with the latest version of the 88 mm (3.46 in) anti-tank gun, the L/71, also known as the StuK 43/1, still in development at that stage. It was a conversion inspired by the Hornisse, which was to use the same gun. The new vehicle was also meant to replace the older Marder II and IIIs in service on the Eastern Front. In comparison, the regular Tiger was equipped with the “short” version of the 88, the KwK 36 L/56. Performance was such that the maximal effective range in direct fire was estimated to be 4500 to 5000 m (2.8-3.1 mi). This was way beyond anything the Red Army possessed at the time.

Development

Of the existing chassis, 91 (chassis number 150010 to 150100) were prepared to be completed as tank hunters, with the ordnance designation Sd.Kfz.184. The new design was ready on November 30, 1942, submitted to Hitler and approved. The trials of the first prototype began in March 19, 1943, when it was presented to Hitler at Ruegenwalde. The Fuhrer was impressed and requested that production be sped up. The conversion process eventually took place between March and May 1943, just in time for the summer campaign on the Eastern Front. It was designated Schwerer Panzerjäger Tiger(P). It was soon nicknamed Ferdinand, to honor “Ferdy” Porsche, the CEO, founder and historical figurehead of the Porsche company.
Elefant front view

Design of the Ferdinand

Hull

By all standards, the Ferdinand was a beast, even heavier and longer than the Tiger, coming in at 65 tons after receiving additional armor, six more metric tons than the original Tiger(P). At first, it was propelled by a pair of engines placed in the middle of the hull. Despite the fact the powerplant was completely overhauled, the ventilation apparatus was relocated further to the front, while a casemate, constructed by Alkett, was relocated to the rear to house the gun and servants, which became the immediate recognition trademark of the Elefant. The casemate itself was made of slightly sloped plates slotted in and welded together. The whole superstructure weighed 15 tons. In addition to the original armor, which was 100 mm (3.94 in) at the front, 60 to 80 mm (2.36-3.15 in) elsewhere, 4.5 tons of additional appliqué armor were bolted on, raising the figure to 200 mm (7.87 in) at the front, the strongest protection seen on any tank at that time. This weight, however, took its toll on the duplex engine transmission. It should be noted that the front engine added an extra layer of safety for the crew, which will be repeated with the Merkava MBT years after.
A detailed breakdown of the armor thickness follows:
Superstructure front: 200 mm (7.87 in) @ 20°
Superstructure side: 80 mm (3.15 in) @ 30°
Superstructure rear: 80 mm (3.15 in) @ 20°
Superstructure roof: 30 mm (1.18 in) @ 4°
Front plate: 100+100 mm (3.94+3.94 in) @ 10°
Hull front: 100+100 mm (3.94+3.94 in) @ 30°
Lower front plate: 80 mm (3.15 in) @ 45°
Side & rear: 80 mm (3.15 in) @ 0°
Engine deck: 30 mm (1.18 in) @ 90°
Belly: 20-30 mm (0.79-1.18 in) @ 90°
Ferdinand drivetrain
The driver was located in the front hull left hand side, with a one-piece hatch opening rearwards. On the right side was positioned the radio operator and his FuG transmitter/emitter. On the casemate roof there was, on the right side, a forward sliding periscope aperture for the gunner and a hinged hatch that could be used for escape by the gunner. The commander’s two-piece hatch (not cupola) was located to the right, and the two-piece loader’s hatch to the left, in échelon towards the rear, with a mushroom-shaped ventilation cap in between, center lined. There were two periscopes for the loaders at the corners of the rear armored roof. Access inside the casemate was granted by a large round hatch at the rear, with a cartridge ejection port in the middle. There were two other pistol ports in the rear part of the casemate on either side, that could be used either with a MG 34 or MP 40 for close combat. One distinctive aspect of the assembly was the forward attachment plate securing the fighting compartment to the hull.

Engines & performance

The original configuration called for two Porsche Typ 101/1 petrol engines mated to a common Siemens-Schuckert 500 VA generator, which in turn powered the two Siemens 230 kW electric motors. This arrangement was by far too complicated, necessitating careful maintenance and prone to overheating. But they provided a drive ratio of 15:1 directly to the drive wheels, which was unheard of at the time. Nevertheless, these were changed with more reliable engines and relocated further to the front-middle, with the ventilation sets further to the front. The replacements were two Maybach HL 120 TRM (245 hp@2600 rpm), which drove two Siemens Schuckert K58-8 generator sets, supplying two Siemens electric motors producing 230 kW @1300 rpm connected to the rear sprockets. Performance was as follows: Top speed of 30 km/h (19 mph), sustained speed of 20 km/h (12 mph), 150 km (95 mi) range with a full tank of 950 liters and a power-to-weight ratio was 8.16 hp/ton. Cross country, the speed was reduced to 10 km/h (6 mph) and the range to 90 km (55 mi) on average. On the testing grounds, it was shown capable to climb a 30° slope, 0.78 m step, cross a 2.78 m trench or ford 1.20 m of water. Ground clearance was 50 cm, track pitch 64 cm, and track width 2.70 m, for a contact length of 4.15 m. Roadwheel diameter was 70 cm and ground pressure 1.23 km/cm.
The Ferdinand at Kubinka

Drivetrain & suspensions

The drivetrain comprised three two wheel bogie assemblies – with doubled steel-rimmed roadwheels that, in addition, were relatively small. Porsche believed that they would give more amplitude for the suspension and the steel rimming could bear more weight. But the most innovative aspect was their semi-internal longitudinal torsion arms, three sets per side, which were not interchangeable. Indeed, this system allowed, in theory, to free internal space, contrary to the standard torsion arms.
Each unit comprised a rocker arm, fitted on the main hull pivot, and a horizontal torsion bar casing arranged beneath the rocker arm and hinged to it at one end. Beneath the other arm, a rubber block was attached, resting lightly on the top of the torsion bar casing when the vehicle was idle. One bogie wheel axle is fixed on the torsion bar casing at a short distance from its free end, while the other is located to the pivotal axis between the casing and the rocker arm and serves as the hinge pin between them. This axle is also fixed to the rocker arm and carried in bearings in the torsion bar casings. A short radius arm is splined on this axis, and maintains a fixed angle with respect to the rocker arm. The torsion bar is anchored at one end by a splined intop at the free end of its casing, where it is secured by a nut and a lock nut. The other end is splined into a sleeve which is journalled in the torsion bar casing and extends back around to a point some distance beyond the end of the axle radius arm. A second radius arm is splined to the torsion bar sleeve beneath the first radius arm and a thrust member is collected by ball and socket joints between the ends of the two arms. (British technical intelligence report).
Each bogie was 1.15 m long. In practice, this system seemed to collect mud and debris under the belly. So, a solution was devised. A cleaning fixture (which resembled a hook, or small curved blade) was attached just behind the idlers, bolted to an “L” bracket.
The single-pint tracks were tensioned by idlers at the rear, while the drive sprockets were located to the front. Because the links traveled so close to the fender belly, protective “horns” were welded to the underside of the hull to help guide the tracks.

Armament

The core of the Ferdinand was its 88 mm (3.46 in) PaK 43/2 L/71 gun, a development of the AA version with an even longer barrel, but less recoil and a completely overhauled breech and loading mechanism, tailored to be fitted on armored vehicles. It was supplied with 50 rounds, stored, for the most, inside the casemate. This gun had a traverse of 30°, elevation and depression of 18°/-8°.
There was no secondary armament, a miscalculation which translated as one of the most costly engineering burdens on the battlefield. Instead, two pistol ports could be served by either a MP 40 machine-pistol or a single 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34. Ammunition supply was 600 rounds for the MG 34 and 384 for the MPs. After the 1944 modifications, a ball-mounted MG 34 was added to the left right side of the driver’s position, manned by the radio operator.

Equipment

These included the sets of sights for the crew, a Zeiss Sfl.FLa periscopic sight for the gunner, a commander “cupola” table with seven vision blocks and one SF14Z scissors periscope, one periscope for each corner loader, three periscopic sights for the driver and a KZF2 periscopic gun sight for the radio operator. Radio equipment comprised a transmitter/emitter FuG-5, an intercom and a telegraphic communication set between the driver and commander.

Another view of the Ferdinand at Kubinka

Production

Production of the original “Ferdinands” took place at Nibelungenwerke, and the St. Valentin facility in Austria did the final assembly. It needed, however, a whole range of modifications to increase reliability. The hull armor was welded by Krupp, Essen, but eventually, after cancellation of the Tiger(P), they were reworked at the new facility at Eisenwerke OberDonau Linz, Austria. The gun and breechblock mechanism was produced by Dortmund Hoerder Hutten Verein in Werk Lippstadt (Amp), and final assembly performed at Krupp. The main engines were manufactured at Maybach in Friedrichshafen and the electric generators at Siemens-Schuckert Berlin (Azg). On May 8, 1943 (end of production), Ferdinands also left the factory without the protective shield around the gun mounting, but there was an all-time inadequate number of these, as some Ferdinands never received them.

Modifications

After Kursk, and according to numerous reports, the surviving vehicles were pulled out of the Eastern front and entirely overhauled at Nibelungenwerke in Austria. A proper commander cupola was welded in place over the roof’s simple hatch (with 7 vision blocks), a ball mounted MG 34 was added for the radio operator, and Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste was applied. The nickname was officially changed to “Elefant”. It was proposed in November and ratified by the OKH in February 1944, but both names were used in reports throughout 1944. It had become a practice to call “Ferdinands” the surviving ones that did not receive modifications, but it never became official.

The Ferdinand/Elefant in action

The whole batch of 89 vehicles was sent to the Eastern front in two heavy tank hunter companies (schwere Heeres Panzerjager Abteilung 653 and 654, with 45 vehicles each) between May and June 1943, where they trained, waiting for Operation Zitadelle, the reduction of the Kursk bulge. There, the Ferdinands first saw combat, and their actions proved their might, just like the Panther and Tiger, but it was not enough. Tactically, their units were committed to destroy Soviet T-34s and 76.2 mm (3 in) anti-tank guns from behind the front lines, at a 3 mile (5 km) range and more. In this role, they performed admirably, according to plan. However, when advancing more in depth in the Soviet defensive lines, a variety of flaws were soon discovered, like the lack of peripheral vision blocks, or a machine gun as secondary armament. The pistol ports were not efficient when moving, and firing was done blindly. Accordingly, the Soviet infantry quickly learned from this and simply hid in their trenches and foxholes until the Ferdinand passed their lines, and then swarmed it with grenades and Molotov cocktails. Most of the losses experienced by this formidable tank hunter where indeed provoked not by enemy tanks, but by simple infantry devices and tactics.
Ferdinand destroyed at Kursk
The other significant issue experienced at Kursk was mine damage and mechanical failure. Indeed, damage to the suspension or tracks imposed a repair sortie for the crews on the field, making them easy prey for snipers. Also, the components were extremely heavy. The other option was to wait for the standard ARV of German service at the time, the Bergepanzer IV, which was insufficient for this category of vehicle. Three were needed to tow a disabled Tiger I, but five for the Ferdinand, linked in tandem. Despite of this, in the initial stages of the battle, sectors were cleaned and secured enough to allow field repairs and recovery in relative peace at night. But once the tides had turned and the German forces were found on the defensive, Ferdinands disabled even with minor damage had little hope of recovery and the crews were forced to destroy these.
Elefant in Italy
In March 1944, the reconstituted Schwere Jagdpanzer Battalion 653 was detached to Italy, and the units were deployed at company level, sub-divided into platoons accompanied closely with infantry to protect their flanks and rear. They saw action at the Anzio pocket. The unit saw a mix of modified and non-modified vehicles, but still, their mobility was a problem in Italy, where their weight forbade attempts to cross most bridges. Mechanical breakdowns and lack of spare parts still proved disastrous.
Disabled Elefant in Italy
Another company saw action during the Soviets’ January 1945 Vistula-Oder offensive in Poland. The remnants of the unit were seen in combat at Zossen during the Battle of Berlin. However, the Elefant impressed by their kill ratio, according to reports. This reached an average ratio of approximately 10:1. For example, at the Battle of Kursk, the 653rd Heavy Tank Destroyer Battalion claimed 320 enemy tanks destroyed for the loss of 13 Ferdinands. This was the advantage of both a very long range gun and impregnable protection, which was paid dearly in return by an excessive weight. Despite of this, Hitler still wanted to see these behemoths as proof that quality matched quantity on the battlefield, and subsequently pressed for the new Königstiger and the Jagdtiger to be ready in 1944. The latter (also called Panzerjäger Tiger Ausf.B) was indeed produced by the same manufacturer, Nibelungenwerk (Steyr-Daimler-Puch) to similar numbers (88), proved even heavier at 71 tons, but of dubious military value due to a mobility deliberately sacrificed on the altar of firepower and protection. However, in the meantime, both the Elefant and the Nashorn, which used the same gun, were superseded by the Jagdpanther, mounting a similar gun but with better protection, performances and a lower profile.
As of today, there are two surviving vehicles. One Ferdinand was captured by Soviet forces at Kursk and is now on display at Kubinka, outside Moscow and the other one, captured at Anzio by the Americans, is now in the Army Ordnance Museum’s collection at Fort Lee, VA, restored in display condition in 2007–2008.

Links and resources

The Panzerjager Tiger(P) on Wikipedia
The Elefant on Achtung Panzer
Thomas L.Jentz & Jeffrey McKaughan – Museum ordnance special 4 Elefant (Darlington prod. Inc.)

Tank Overhaul series – The Elefant

Gallery

Ferdinand armor schemeFerdinand after restoration

The Ferdinand in Italy

After Kursk the surviving Ferdinands fought various rear-guard actions in 1943 until they were recalled for repair, modification and overhaul, partially based on battle experience gained. They returned to the Nibelungenwerke factory in Austria, on 02 January 1944. Due the Allied landings in Anzio, OKH ordered 656 Schwere Panzerjäger-Regiment to prepare a Ferdinand company for despatch to the front. Only 11 vehicles were available, and these were assigned to 1st company 653 Schwere Panzerjäger battalion. The company was placed under the command of Leutnant Helmut Ulbricht and organised as below.
Stabs Co: Gun numbers 101,102;
1.Platoon: Gun numbers 111,112,113,114;
2.Platoon: Gun numbers 121,122,123,124;
3.Platoon: Gun number 131;
It was also assigned one recovery Ferdinand and various support units.
At the beginning of Feb 1944, it was despatched to the front arriving in Rome between the 16th and 24th Feb. Here it was assigned to 508th Tiger battalion. This unit went into action under the command of Parachute Panzer Division Herman Goring and in the opening days of combat lost 2 guns.
On 1 March 1944 – 114 (commander Uffz. W. Kuhl) bogged down on the Cisterna – Nettuno Road.
On 2 March 1944 – 131 (commander Obfw. G. Koss) mined and was destroyed because it proved impossible to recover.
On 1 May 1944 the order to rename the vehicle as Elefant was issued and from May 19th they are described as Elefants in 14th Army documents. They return to action on 24th with Leutnant Grupe destroying 4 Shermans but lose another vehicle.
On 24 May 1944 – 102 (commander Hptm. H. Ulbricht) is abandoned after catching fire on the road Cisterna-Cori.
On 25 May 1944 – 113 (commander Fw. E. Roos); thrown track hit, received damage to the chassis.
After this action the Elefants retired North suffering losses all the way. On the 2/6/19 an air raid hits the motor pool, destroying vital recovery half-tracks and wheeled vehicles. One of the two Pz III ammo carriers is also destroyed.
On 6 June 1944 – 123 (commander Obgf. Lassig); was destroyed near Via Aurelia as a result of an attack by American aircraft.
On 7 June 1944 – 121 (commander Lt.W. Grupe); was destroyed when the bridge between Monte Fiascone and Orvieto collapsed under the weight of the vehicle.
On 10 June 1944 – 122 (commander Fw. R. Schlabs); destroyed near Orvieto by the US Air Force.
On 10 June 1944 – 112 (commander Fw. A. Schmitt); was mined by the crew in Ficulle after breaking down and with no possibility of recovery.
In July 1944 – 124 (commander?) was abandoned due to mechanical problems near Viterbo.
On the 2 August 1944 the remaining 2 Elefants and the recovery Elefant loaded onto a train and were evacuated to Vienna.

Sd.Kfz.184 Elefant specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H) 6.97 (8.14 oa) x 3.38 x 2.97 m (26.8 x 11 x 9.9 ft)
Total weight, battle ready 65 tons (143,000 lbs)
Armament 88 mm (3.46 in) Pak 43/2 L/71
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 (1944)
Armor 60 to 200 mm (0.6 – 7.87 in)
Crew 6 (driver, commander, radio, gunner, 2 loaders)
Propulsion 2 × Maybach HL 120 petrol 600 hp (442 kW), 9.23 hp/t
Speed 30 km/h (19 mph)
Suspension Longitudinal torsion bar
Range and consumption (road/off-road) 150 km (93 mi)/ 90 km (56 mi)
Total production 91

Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

The VK 45.01(P) or Tiger(P)
Porsche’s VK 45.01 prototype in 1942. It was given as a favorite, before problems with the complex powerplant emerged.
Ferdinand
Early production Ferdinand, Panzerabteilung 653, summer 1943.
Ferdinand on the Eastern Front
653rd Panzer-Abteilung, Eastern front, winter 1943-44.
Ferdinand at Kursk
Ferdinand of the 654th Panzer-Abteilung, Kursk, summer 1943.
Another Ferdinand at Kursk
Ferdinand of the 654th PanzerJäger Abteilung, Kursk, Eastern front, 1943.
Elefant in Italy
Sd.Kfz.184 “Elefant” of the 1st company, 653rd Schwere Heeres Panzerjäger Abteilung, Anzio-Nettuno, March 1944.
An Elephant fighting in Ukraine in 1944
Tiger(P) Elefant (late type) from the Abt.653 HQ Company, Brzherzhany, Ukraine, July 1944