The E 100 super heavy tank is one of the most fascinating tanks of Nazi Germany. While it does not have near-mythical combat legends of the Tigers or the sheer weight of the Maus, its partially built hull was impressive enough to cement it into tank history for decades to come. The obscurity and nature of the project have resulted in a vast number of speculatory conversions and what-if modifications. One of these gray areas is the Sturmgeschütz E 100, a short-lived plan of converting the E 100 into an assault gun. Unfortunately, there are no remaining blueprints of the layout, which has left the appearance of this vehicle up to much debate. The most well-known representation is that with a rear-mounted casemate, made famous by Wargaming’s game, World of Tanks (WoT).
Wargaming used the Sturmgeschütz to fill in their Tier X German tank destroyer line in WoT. Due to the popularity that the game enjoyed throughout the 2010s, WoT quickly became a centerpiece of information and an introduction to tanks for most amateur tank enthusiasts, making the wrongly-named Jagdpanzer E 100 what most think of when mentioning an E 100 based self-propelled gun.
WoT provides a short but somewhat inaccurate bit of historical information on the vehicle:
“The E100 was conceived as the basis for a self-propelled gun, an antiaircraft vehicle, and a tank destroyer. However, development was never started.”
There were never any plans to build an anti-aircraft vehicle based on the E 100 hull (or the Maus, for that matter). Many such designs have appeared online, but they are fake.
Likewise, there were never any plans to make an artillery self-propelled gun based on the E 100, although that fake vehicle also made it into the game in the form of the Geschützwagen E 100.
There was work made by Krupp and Porsche on an enclosed direct-firing self-propelled gun, but that particular vehicle was meant to be a Sturmgeschütz (an assault gun) and not a Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer). This was called the 15/17 cm Sturmgeschütz auf E 100 Fahrgestell (15/17 cm Assault Gun on E 100 Chassis). The project started on 9th May, 1944, when Porsche and Krupp representatives met to discuss the issue of a new heavy assault gun. Krupp showed plans for mounting either a 15 cm L/63 or a 17 cm L/53 gun inside a fixed casemate on a Maus chassis. This was in competition to what another firm, Adler, had planned, which was to mount these guns inside a fixed casemate, but on an E 100 chassis. The production quota officer, Obering Hendel, preferred the E 100 design over the Maus, as the Maus hull was significantly taller, and with a casemate mounted, would not fit through the standard railway tunnels of the time.
On 28th May 1944, it was requested that Krupp should build a 1:5th scale wooden mock-up of the E 100 chassis Sturmgeschütz, with both gun variants.
Unfortunately, the only surviving blueprints from this program is the one showing the 150 mm gun mount, leaving the position of the casemate to much debate.
The possibility that this program would have transformed into a Jagdpanzer E 100 is not at all lacking if the program would have continued. While the name is unhistorical, many German Jagdpanzers started their life as Sturmgeschütz, such as the Ferdinand, Jagdpanzer IV, Jagdpanther and Jagdtiger. The difference between a Sturmgeschütz and a Jagdpanzer was not a matter of construction or shape, but a matter of deployment and doctrine. However, the Sturmgeschütz E 100 project was terminated before the Panzerwaffe could steal it from the arms of the Sturmartillerie.
In World of Tanks
In WoT, the Jagdpanzer E 100 has a large, thickly armored superstructure at the back of the hull, in a similar fashion to that of the Ferdinand, with the engine compartment being moved towards the middle of the vehicle. The crew consists of 6 men, a commander, a driver, a gunner, a radio operator, and 2 loaders. It is armed with a 17 cm Pak, most likely inspired by the real 17 cm Stu.K. L/53 gun. It can carry 24x 170 mm rounds and reload a shell in around 25 seconds. The engine is a “Maybach Neues Projekt” with a 1,200 hp output, allowing the 134-tonne vehicle to reach a maximum speed of 30 km/h. It is crucial to note that these numbers always change in attempts by the game developers to balance the vehicle within the game environment, and are often quite far from reality, but understandable from a gaming point of view.
The Maybach Neues Projekt name is most likely fictional, but there was actually a 1,200 hp engine for the E 100. This was called the HL 234, a supercharged variant of the HL 230. It was to be coupled to an 8-speed Mekydro transmission. However, with these components, Adler moved the transmission and drive sprocket to the back, meaning that, on the E 100 tank version, the turret was moved forwards, requiring a longer hull – a very different look to the original E 100. Sadly though, Adler destroyed their plans at the end of the war to avoid capture. A rear transmission would also make it incompatible with the rear-mounted casemate possibility for the Sturmgeschütz. On the Jagdpanzer E 100, the engine has been moved to the middle of the vehicle in order to make room for the superstructure at the rear.
At the rear left on top of the superstructure, a small turret was added, with what seems like a lower caliber autocannon or heavy machine gun. Within the game, it does not operate. Such an idea is sensible for a fixed casemate vehicle its size in order to protect the vulnerable rear and left side. On the side of the casemate, small pins can be seen. These would have held up track links. The 1,100 mm wide track links would be impossible to be mounted/dismounted by hand from that position. Therefore, a small crane would be required, often shown on different models.
The tank destroyer in WoT is extremely well armored, with 250 mm at the front of the superstructure, and 150 mm towards the sides and rear. However, this, along with the heavy gun breach and ammunition, would have placed considerable strain on the rear suspension. While the real armor thickness for the Sturmgeschütz are unknown, the surviving mantlet blueprints indicate that the rounded ball mount behind the mantlet was around 120 mm thick. The thick, angled frontal plate of the casemate would be around 200 mm thick. Side and rear armor of the casemate is up to speculation, but they would likely have been rather thin (around 80 mm) to keep the weight down and eliminate stress from the rear wheels, as was done on the real E 100 turret.
In WoT, the Jagdpanzer E 100 has a 17cm PaK, inspired from the 17cm StuK L/53 gun. Krupp wanted to avoid using this gun as much as possible on the heavy Sturmgeschütz design, mainly because of its weight, but also the size of the breech and ammunition, which required a large casemate. On 29th April 1944, General Heinz Guderian requested that the penetration should be 200 mm at 4,000 meters. Essentially, this would have meant being able to knock out even the heaviest of Allied tanks from 4 km! Unfortunately, because most of the information around the 17cm L/53 is based on salvaged papers, data about its performance and shells is scarce.
The placement of a rear casemate on the E 100 would come with a host of mechanical challenges, none of which would be possible for Germany to manage at the time. According to former Wargaming historian, Yuri Pasholok, the Combined Intelligence Objectives Sub-Committee (CIOS) claimed that the transmission and drive sprockets were moved to the rear.
Moving the engine to the middle of the tank would be a complex task, but not impossible.
The placement of a well-armored casemate so far back would have moved a great deal of weight towards the rear wheels, but due to the heavy gun and thick armor resting on the center wheels, this might have balanced out. This did have the advantage of shortening the overhang of the gun over the hull, reducing problems in narrow spaces, such as streets and forests. The Soviet SU-100, a much smaller vehicle, experienced such issues.
The heat from the engine would distort the view of the gunner and could potentially warp the gun, another issue found with many rear casemate tank destroyers.
There would be a host of mechanical changes to the E 100 hull that had to be made, increasing production time and cost. These would be adjusting transmission and drivetrain, adjusting the suspension to the different balance points, changing air intake and exhausts positions, etcetera.
This entire process had already been encountered in the Jagdtiger program. There was actually a proposal of having the Jagdtiger casemate in the rear of the hull and the engine in the middle, the Tigerjäger B, but the issues stated above, among others, led to a central casemate for the Jagdtiger to be chosen.
In recent years, model kit companies have even released models in 1:72 or 1:35 scale of the Jagdpanzer E 100, further cementing the rear-mounted casemate alternative as the most popular one.
Veteran historians and casual tank enthusiasts have been discussing this vehicle for years and we may never know for sure how a tank destroyer or assault gun based on the E 100 would have looked like. It remains one of the many fascinating and impressive projects to come out of Germany in the Second World War, alongside a similar project for the Maus and vehicles such as the Kugelpanzer. It is the simple fact that so little is known about it that allows one’s imagination to open up. The details that are known are also simply sensational, from the large gun to the heavy armor of the E 100. However, it should be remembered that, behind these impressive numbers, equally impressive mechanical and engineering problems lay, which were not solved by the Germans even for their lighter vehicles. The Sturmgeschütz E 100’s appearance in Wargaming’s video game, even under a false name, only boosted its fame within the tank community.
Jagdpanzer E 100 specifications
|Total Weight, Battle Ready||over 134 tonnes|
|Crew||6 (Commander, Gunner, Radio Operator, Driver and 2x Loaders)|
|Propulsion||Maybach Neues Projekt or HL 234|
|Armament||17 cm StuK L/53|
|Armor||250 mm max|
Frohlich, M. (2015). Schwere Panzer der Wehrmacht. Motorbuch Verlag, Germany
Jentz, T., Doyle, H. (2008). Panzer Tracts No.6-3 Schwere Panzerkampfwagen Maus and E 100.