By the time of the Second World War, modern armies were searching for ways to improve the mobility of their anti-aircraft guns. Germany initially used a simple twin machine gun mount placed on light unarmored trucks or any other available chassis. These generally had insufficient firepower and poor mobility, limiting them to operating on good roads. Something with better punch and mobility was desirable. The German Army would develop a simple solution by mounting a 2 cm anti-aircraft gun on a highly mobile half-track chassis by the start of the war. This would lead to the creation of the Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 5 light self-propelled light anti-aircraft guns. While these would eventually be replaced with a superior design, they served to provide the basic experience and prove that concept had merit, which the Germans would exploit in large numbers during the war.
Context: Need for a Light Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun
The history of the development of weapons that can bring down aerial targets goes back to the introduction of aircraft. In the German (Prussians to be more precise) case, this first took place during the siege of Paris at the end of 1870. The defenders used balloons to communicate with their forces outside of the besieged city. The Germans responded by deploying a 3.7 cm gun designed by Friedrich Alfred Krupp. Even back then, in military circles around the world, mobility was seen as a highly important aspect of any war. In order to increase its mobility this gun, it was be placed on a horse-drawn wagon.
By the start of the 1900s, with the advances in technology and industry, it was possible to test mount such guns on four-wheel motor carriages. This would lead to a series of anti-ballon vehicles being developed and presented to the German Army. One such example was the Ehrhardt Ballon Abwehr Kanone (BAK) armed with a 5 cm gun placed in a small turret with limited traverse. While this vehicle would not be accepted for service, others, like the Rheinmetall 7.7 cm gun-armed truck, would be built in some numbers.
When the war in Europe broke out in 1914, the need to protect vital industrial and military targets against aircraft became ever more pertinent. The Germans tried to increase the number of these anti-balloon trucks, but there were never enough of them. These also proved to be quite effective in engaging ground targets, especially tanks.
In the years following the end of the First World War, the German Army was forbidden from using or developing such mobile anti-aircraft platforms except for very limited numbers. This did not stop the German Army from experimenting with this concept. The anti-aircraft vehicles used in the First World War provided sufficient anti-aircraft fire to protect designated targets. Thanks to their mobility, they could relatively quickly take up new positions. As these were wheeled vehicles, their mobility off-road was greatly limited. To resolve the issue of poor mobility over rough terrain while keeping a good speed on roads, in the 1920s, the Germans tested the concept of the wheel-cum-track chassis. These vehicles used both tracks and wheels depending on the terrain, but the whole concept proved to be too complicated and ineffective and was soon abandoned.
By the late 1930s, the German Army began using a series of half-tracks, mainly as towing vehicles. These had a front two-wheel axis and fully tracked driven and steered units to the rear. While not perfect, these vehicles provided an excellent combination of driving on ‘bad’ and ‘good’ terrains. The smaller of the series, the Sd.Kfz.10, would be chosen for testing the mounting of a 2 cm Flak anti-aircraft gun in the rear position, previously used for storage. While installing smaller caliber guns may at first seem like a downgrade, the newly developed 2 cm guns had a far higher rate of fire and muzzle velocity than the older guns, being more effective.
The weapons design office wanted to make the 2 cm Flak 30 mobile. However, the chassis used had to be an already existing half-track one, so it could provide good performance through cross-country terrain. The chosen vehicle had to be already in production, so conversions from already existing vehicles were easy to perform and no additional production line was needed.
During the early 1930s, the German Army initiated a program for the development of a series of half-tracks intended to be used for towing various artillery pieces and other equipment. The smallest of the series was the Sd.Kfz.10. It was initially developed and produced by Demag AG, though other companies would later also become involved. The project began development in 1932. Two years later, the first prototype, named DI 1, would be built. That would eventually lead to the creation of the D7 version which would be used as a production model, which began in 1939. By the time production ended in 1944, some 25,000 were built.
The Sd.Kfz.10 was originally planned to be a half-tracked towing vehicle for light artillery, anti-aircraft, and anti-tank guns up to 1 tonne. In addition, it was intended to act as a light troop carrier. It was a competent overall design and saw service throughout the Second World War on all fronts. Given its rather small towing capabilities, it would eventually be replaced by larger models.
The Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5
Following the urgent demands for a highly mobile anti-aircraft vehicle, the Germans decided to test if the 2 cm gun could be placed on the Sd.Kfz.10 half-track. The Sd.Kfz.10 fit the criteria demanded by the design office perfectly, as it was light and mobile whilst still able to drive cross-country. Additionally, the weight of the gun did not slow the vehicle down too much. The larger Sd.Kfz.6 and 7, while well capable of doing the job, were badly needed to tow heavier guns. Units already operated the 2 cm Flak 30 and the Sd.Kfz.10, which meant they were already familiar with them and training was therefore easy. Initial tests were carried out on the Demag half-track prototypes. Following their successful trials, production orders for these vehicles would be given.
This modification was known as the Sd.Kfz.10/4 (armed with the 2 cm Flak 30) and 10/5 (Flak 38) (Sf.) auf (gepanzerten, if armored) Fahrgestell leichter Zugkraftwagen 1-ton (Eng. self propelled on armored towing vehicle chassis 1 tonne). The Sd.Kfz.10/4 was initially developed in 1935 and started production in 1938.
It saw service until the war’s end. The Sd.Kfz.10/5, first deployed in 1943, can be seen as a direct improvement, as it featured crew protection and an upgraded 2 cm gun.
Interestingly, there is some confusion in the sources regarding this designation. For example, authors J. Ledwoch and R. Sawicki (Tank Power Vol. XCVIII Sd Kfz 10/4) mentions that the designation 10/5 was never used by the Germans. On the other hand, well-known authors T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle, mention that both designations were used in their books Panzer Tracts No.12 Flak Selbstfahrlafetten and Flakpanzer and Panzer Tracts No.22-1 Leichter Zugkraftwagen 1t. The later sources indicate that the first official mention of the Sd.Kfz.10/5 was from October 1943. Despite this, they continue, the Sd.Kfz.10/4 designation remained in use up to the end of 1944.
Production and Conversion
In May 1939, production of 370 Truppenluftschutz 2 cm Flak auf Zugkraftwgen 1t (Eng. Troop Air Defense 2 cm Anti-Aircraft Gun on Sd.Kfz.10) began, which would be completed by July 1939. The Army recieved 195 (until 1941, the vehicles intended for the army were still sent into battle as part of the Luftwaffe) and the Luftwaffe received 175. However, due to production issues, only 70 could be delivered by July. By September 1939, all vehicles had been produced. In December 1939, it was settled that the Army needed an additional 1,000 Sd.Kfz.10/4s by June 1940, and that if this was completed, production was to continue at a rate of 45 each month. Later, an order was added that specified 304 Sd.Kfz.10/4s for the Luftwaffe. Until March 1940, 927 Sd.Kfz.10/4 chassis had been built, but only 350 were completed with the superstructure by Adlerwerke. After March 1940, Adlerwerke continued completion of 25 vehicles per month. Vehicles completed in 1939 were designated Baujahr 1939 (Eng. Construction year 1939) and vehicles completed in 1940, Baujahr 1940. They differed mainly in the front bumper, where equipment was stored, and the addition of mounting ramps on the 1940 version, which were not present on the 1939 version.
In 1941, the long-term tank production program for the Army included the need for a total of 5,070 Sd.Kfz.10/4s. From July 1939 until December 1941, 736 Sd.Kfz.10/4s were actually completed by Adlerwerke of the 927 chassis without guns and armament. By 1942, an additional 291 Sd.Kfz.10/4s were completed. In total, 1,054 were built by Adlerwerke until October 1943, when production stopped.
In 1942, the last version (Baujahr 1942) of the Sd.Kfz.10/4 was introduced with a widened gun platform to fit the upgraded 2 cm Flak 38. However, these were still designated 10/4s. In January 1943, in an attempt to stop the high crew casualties, additional armor plates around the windshield were introduced. In 1943, around 375 of these armor plates were completed and fitted to not only the later 10/5s, but also the 10/4s. The first Sd.Kfz.10/5 entered service in October 1943. These vehicles featured the 2 cm Flak 38 and the additional armor was standardized. The production of Sd.Kfz.10/4s was stopped, but those which were still in service kept their original designation. Differentiating between a late Sd.Kfz.10/4 with additional armor and a Flak 38 and an Sd.Kfz.10/5 is very hard, as the vehicles differ only in minor aspects. The new contract for the Sd.Kfz.10/5 was given to Mechanische Werke Cottbus (Eng. Mechanical Factories Cottbus), which completed 275 10/5s until the end of 1943. In 1944, they completed 687 and stopped construction in 1945, with no new vehicles completed. The total number of both Sd.Kfz.10/4s and 10/5s built was around 2,016.
The Sd.Kfz.10 chassis, like all German half-tracks, could be divided into three sections. The front engine, central crew compartment, and the rear positioned crew or cargo transport compartment. Given its small size, the load capacity was rather limited, but on the other hand, transported troops could dismount very quickly from the vehicle.
The suspension consisted of two components, the front two-wheel axis and the rear fully-tracked suspension. The front steering wheels were typical German non-powered ones, which were used mostly for steering on good terrain. The torsion bar suspension consisted of five overlapping and interleaved double road wheels, a front-drive sprocket, and a rear idler. While somewhat complicated, it provided a relatively good off-road drive
The Sd.Kfz.10 was powered by a Maybach HL 42 water-cooled engine giving out 100 hp @ 2,800 rpm. With this engine, the Sd.Kfz 10 could reach a speed of up to 65 km/h. Cross-country, this was reduced to 30 km/h. With a fuel load of 110 liters, the maximum operational range was 220 km and 150 km cross-country.
The main armament of the Sd.Kfz.10/4 was the 2 cm Flak 30. This weapon was developed by Rheinmetall and adopted for use by the Luftwaffe in 1935. It was a fairly simple open bolt and recoil operated anti-aircraft gun. When deployed, the gun had a full traverse of 360° and an elevation of -12° to +90°. The maximum effective range was 2 km against air targets and 1.6 km against ground targets. The maximum rate of fire was 280 rpm, but the practical rate of fire was usually closer to 120 rpm.
Ammunition was provided in 20-round magazines. The use of such a magazine greatly diminished the gun’s rate of fire, as it was highly dependent on the loader’s training and experience.
For engaging targets, the gun was initially provided with a Flakvisier 35, which had a course and speed calculator incorporated into it. Whilst quite effective, it was too complicated and would be replaced by the much simpler Linealvisier 21 stamped sight. When deployed, the gun was placed on three adjustable legs. The gunner, which was positioned behind the gun, had the option of two different firing modes depending on the pedal trigger mechanism used. The right was for single fire and the left was for automatic fire. In front of him, the gunner had the horizontal traverse and, on the right, a vertical elevation handwheel. In case of emergency, the gun could fire while still on the trailer, with a limited traverse of only 40°.
For transport, the gun could easily be placed on a two-wheel trailer which could be then towed by almost any vehicle.
From 1941 onwards, the new Sd.Kfz.10/5 was provided with the improved Flak 38. This was a weapon intended to replace the older 2 cm Flak 30, which it never actually fully did. The Flak 38 was designed by Mauser Werke, incorporating many elements of the Flak 30 with some internal changes, such as the addition of a new bolt mechanism and return spring. It had a full traverse of 360° and the elevation range was slightly improved, going from -20° to +90°. The range against air and ground targets was the same. The firing rate was greatly increased to between 420 and 480 rpm, but the practical rate of fire was usually between 180 rpm to 220 rpm rounds. While basically the same gun, the mount is easily recognizable by the new round-shaped elements, and the gunner’s position was moved to the right side. The hand wheels, although of different design, remained in the same positions.
The mount for the Flak 38 was different and could not easily be installed on the Sd.Kfz.10/4. Nonetheless, occasionally, this was still done. In 1942, the Sd.Kfz.10 gun platform was widened from 1.89 to 2.24 m.
While primarily intended for anti-aircraft use, the 2 cm Flak guns were also provided with two types of anti-armor rounds. There was a standard armor-piercing round that was capable of penetrating 23 mm of armor angled at 30° at 100 m ranges. There was also an option to use the tungsten core armor-piercing round which had an improved penetration power of 40 mm of flat armor at the same distance. However, this round was rare due to the general lack of tungsten. Despite rather limited anti-tank capabilities, it could still be dangerous for lightly armored targets and infantry formations.
Besides the main armament, for their personal defense, the crew was usually provided with standard Mauser 98K rifles. These were stored on a special mount placed above the wheel fenders. They were initially completely exposed to the elements. It quickly became obvious to the crews that this was not a good option, given that they were quite exposed to dirt and dust. These would be replaced with a box-shaped storage bin for the rifles starting from 1942. It was also not uncommon to see the crews using other weapons for their defense, such as the MP-40 submachine gun.
The 2 cm gun was positioned on the rear part of the Sd.Kfz.10, which was previously occupied by the storage section. A simple flat platform with a few hatches to access the interior of this new compartment was added. As it was intended to be strong enough to support the total weight of the gun, the crew, and other equipment, it was necessary to strengthen its base construction. Three stabilizer connectors for the 2 cm Flak’s legs were added on top of this platform. In addition, three round-shaped mounting points were also placed on top of it. Their purpose was to act as connection points for the Flak gun’s leveling pads. This platform was also provided with wire mesh side walls (except the front) which could be folded down to provide more working space. Despite being a relatively small gun, the Sd.Kfz.10’s gun platform was rather cramped even with the folding sides.
The side walls also carried spare ammunition boxes, with four on the sides and two more to the rear. The total ammunition load carried with the vehicle was 240 rounds. An additional 640 spare rounds, together with other necessary kit, such as spare barrels, were carried in the ammunition trailer.
The initial requirements stated that, on some occasions, the gun had to be dismounted for better concealment. Before 1940, crews had to manually get the 2 cm gun down from the trailer, then on top of the chassis, which proved to be a difficult process. To speed this up, in 1940, two ramps were added to the vehicles, which, when not in use, were stored in a holder which was located in front of the vehicle. The process was very simple. First, the two ramps were put on the rear side of the vehicle. Then, two men on each side attached ropes to the gun trailer and stretched them around a metal rod. After that, a third man would adjust the trailer into position, and together, the crew would pull the trailer with the gun on top of the platform. The crew then removed the trailer and slowly dropped it on the ground. This process would take around 20 seconds. By 1941, crews were no longer required to dismount their guns during long stationing. This meant the ramps were redundant and were removed. There were also two metal support beams that could be raised. These provided stability and hold for a canvas. This canvas spanned over the vehicle and connected to the windshield at the front.
Protection and Armor
The majority of the early-built vehicles did not receive any kind of armor protection, even for the gun. Only limited numbers were provided with a gun armored shield. After the completion of the conquest of France, all available Sd.Kfz.10/4s had to be equipped with a gun shield.
This came in two forms depending on the gun used. They can be easily distinguished, as the older Flak 30 had a larger square-shaped gun barrel shield section, while the later Flak 38 had a smaller rectangular section. In addition, the Flak 38 gun shield was slightly cut off at the top on the right side to provide a good viewpoint for the gunner. The gunner was usually, but not always, provided with a small gun shield located in front of the gun sight.
The vehicle itself did not receive any kind of armor protection. As was often the case when used for ground support fire, this proved highly problematic. The crew and the vehicle’s engine were completely exposed to enemy return fire. This often led to huge problems, such as bullets hitting the radiator or the driver, which would often leave the vehicle immobilized. To somewhat resolve this issue, an 8 mm thick armored shield was added for the vehicle radiator and the driver’s compartment. The driver’s compartment was protected by a large windscreen with two front openings. The sides were partially, or in some cases, fully protected, with a visor port added. The rear and top were completely open. Realistically, this provided only a limited amount of protection except against small caliber rounds and shrapnel, but some protection was still better than nothing. Adding any kind of armor for the rear gun compartment was impossible due to the fact that the chassis was already overburdened with all the added weight.
Depending on the source, the number of crew members was 6 or 7. Previously mentioned authors J. Ledwoch and R. Sawicki list 6 crew members, including a commander, two gunners, and three loaders. Authors T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle mention a slightly larger crew of 7, which included a commander, 5 gun operators, and the driver. It is possible that the sources that mention a smaller number do not include the driver, but this would be quite odd. In 1943, the number of crew was reduced to only four, likely a driver, commander, gunner, and loader. This meant that some of them had to perform other tasks, such as spotters or providing additional spare ammunition.
In 1932, when the newly developed anti-aircraft guns were transfered over from the infantry to the airforce, the infantry had to rely on machine guns to deal with fighters. This meant that, until 1941, all Sd.Kfz.10/4s were registered with the Luftwaffe and were attached to a Panzer or infantry division. The Sd.Kfz.10/4s in service with the Luftwaffe were organized into Leichte Flak Abteilungen (Sf.) (English: Light Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Battalions). If attached to the army, they were renamed to Heeres-Fla-Bataillone (Eng. Army Anti-Air Battalion). One of these battalions had three Fla Kompanie (mot) (Eng. Motorized Anti-Air Companies). The Fla Kompanie (mot) was an independent unit raised by the Infantry and each company was assigned to a different division. It had 3 anti-aircraft platoons with 4 Sd.Kfz.10/4s in each platoon. This makes the total number of Sd.Kfz.10/4s per Leichte Flak Abteilung (Sf.) to be 36. However, due to equipment shortages, the Abteilungs were assigned to larger units, such as armies and army corps. Another unit type which fielded Sd.Kfz.10/4s were the independent motorized artillery observation balloon batteries, which had 12 10/4s.
During the Polish and French campaigns, the Heer (infantry and tanks) solely used towed 20 mm guns. However, there is a possibility that some might have been mounted on vehicles by the Heer after seeing the 10/4 used by the Luftwaffe. Each infantry and tank division had machine gun battalions which acted as anti-aircraft units. Only the SS received the designated anti-aircraft machine gun battalions. There was also the Heeres Fla Battalion für Infanterie (Eng. Army Anti-Air Battalion for Infantry) which operated anti-aircraft guns such as the 2 cm cannons. However, these were only used by the Infantry and were, in most cases, towed. The Sd.Kfz.10/4s from the Luftwaffe moved alongside their assigned division.
In 1941, at the start of Operation Barbarossa, the Sd.Kfz.10/4s were organized within the Heer for the first time officially, although the Luftwaffe kept its 10/4s, received new ones and later even more 10/5s. The Luftwaffe, or rather, the independent anti-aircraft companies were reduced to 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s. There were cases, such as the 5th Light Division (mot) in North Africa, already having Sd.Kfz.10/4s prior to Operation Barbarossa. The Sd.Kfz.10/4 was organized within Fliegerabwehr Bataillone (mot) (Eng. Motorized Anti-Air Battalions). Each battalion had a headquarters unit and three motorized anti-aircraft companies. The headquarters unit did not field any 10/4s and had the standard organization for a motorized HQ unit (signal detachment, battalion HQ, transport HQ). Each motorized infantry anti-aircraft company had a company HQ, signal detachment, company transport, company maintenance, and 3 anti-aircraft platoons. Each anti-aircraft platoon had an HQ section and a firing detachment. Each firing detachment had 4 Sd.Kfz.10/4s, 2 Sd.Kfz.10/4 without guns acting as ammunition transport vehicles and 4 trailers which could be towed by the ammunition vehicles and the gun vehicles. This made a total of 41 Sd.Kfz.10/4, 36 with armament and 9 without in each Fliegerabwehr Battalion (mot).
However, the anti-aircraft battalions were not the only ones that fielded Sd.Kfz.10/4s, as the anti-tank battalions of each motorized infantry division and tank division did as well. A single motorized infantry anti-aircraft company was contained within the anti-tank battalion. It had a company HQ, signal detachment, company maintenance section, company transport unit, and 4 anti-aircraft platoons. Two anti-aircraft platoons operated the 2 cm Flakvierling (Eng. 20 mm quad gun), whilst the other two fielded vehicles with a single 2 cm Flak gun. Of the two, one operated towed anti-aircraft guns whilst the other fielded mounted guns. This means only one anti-aircraft platoon actually fielded Sd.Kfz.10/4s, as the other mounted anti-aircraft gun platoon featured the much bigger Sd.Kfz.7/1. Within this one platoon, the numbers were the same as in the anti-aircraft battalions. Four Sd.Kfz.10/4 with armament, two without, and four trailers, making the total number 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4 in an anti-tank battalion. A motorized battery still had 12 10/4s, but these were independently assigned to any unit.
A motorized infantry division did not field an anti-aircraft battalion and only the tank divisions had this, which meant motorized infantry divisions only had the 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s from the anti-tank battalion, whilst the tank division had around 47 Sd.Kfz.10/4s. A regular non-motorized infantry division did not field any.
The Waffen SS combat units from 1941 had a different organization. SS Tank Divisions had a SS Flak Abteilung (mot) (Eng. Motorized Anti-Aircraft Gun Battalion) which fielded multiple batteries. These batteries were taken from the Luftwaffe and were organized in the same way as the Luftwaffe units. This meant the Sd.Kfz.10/4s were part of a self-propelled light 20 mm anti-aircraft battery. Within that battery, there were 3 gun platoons which fielded 4 Sd.Kfz.10/4s each, making the total number of Sd.Kfz.10/4s within each SS tank division 12 (all of them with armament).
In 1942, due to an increasing amount of Allied air power on all fronts, the need arose to better protect anti-tank battalions and have separate anti-aircraft battalions for almost every unit. The staff unit battalion of a tank division fielded Sd.Kfz.10/4s within their armored command detachment. The armored command detachment had one anti-aircraft platoon. The organization within that one anti-aircraft platoon was the same: 4 with guns, 2 without, and 4 trailers. However, due to a lack of self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles, the concept of a designated anti-aircraft battalion was dropped, and most Sd.Kfz.10/4s were handed over to other units.
Furthermore, after 1942, each infantry regiment had Sd.Kfz.10/4s. However, the infantry regiments within tank divisions fielded different anti-aircraft companies than an infantry regiment within a motorized infantry division. Within a tank division, the infantry division fielded one mechanized light anti-aircraft company. This company had a company HQ, signal detachment, ammunition supply unit, maintenance unit, company transport unit, and 3 anti-aircraft platoons. The first anti-aircraft platoon was designated ‘mono motorized platoon’ and fielded only towed 2 cm Flak guns. The second anti-aircraft platoon, designated ‘mono self-propelled platoon’, fielded 4 Sd.Kfz.10/4 with guns, 2 without, and 4 trailers. The third platoon, designated ‘quad self-propelled platoon’, fielded the much bigger Sd.Kfz.7/1. The total number of Sd.Kfz.10/4s in an infantry regiment of a tank division was 6.
An infantry regiment within a motorized infantry division had a self-propelled light anti-aircraft company. This one had two mono self-propelled platoons and one quad self-propelled platoon, for atotal number of 12 Sd.Kfz.10/4s, 8 with armament and 4 without. The anti-tank battalion of a tank division kept its original number of Sd.Kfz.10/4s, 12 each, and within the anti-tank battalion of a motorized infantry division, the were 6.
Officially, a motorized infantry division in 1942 had 30 Sd.Kfz.10/4s and a tank division had 42 Sd.Kfz.10/4s.
The organization of the SS changed slightly, to a total of 12 Sd.Kfz.10/4s per division, 6 within the SS Flak Abteilung and 6 within the SS reconnaissance battalion. An exception was the LSSAH, which had an additional 24 Sd.Kfz.10/4s within its two infantry regiments. Another exception was the Führer Begleit Bataillon (Eng. Leader Escort Battalion) which fielded 12 Sd.Kfz.10/4s within its 4th Company. Interestingly, these were 10/4s equipped with Flak 38 instead of Flak 30 guns.
In 1943, all parts of either a tank or motorized infantry division had an anti-aircraft company of some sorts that fielded the Sd.Kfz.10/4. This entirely new system would not change until the war’s end. Furthermore, the new Sd.Kfz.10/5, was, in summer 1943, not part of the organization and was only added in October. It was meant to act as a replacement for the 10/4 and fulfilled the same role and was added to the same levels of the organization. The battalion staff unit of a tank division and armored Panzergrenadier Division, a motorized infantry division equipped with half-tracks instead of trucks, had a divisional escort company which in turn had an anti-tank platoon, HQ company, maintenance platoon, transport platoon, and an anti-aircraft platoon. This anti-aircraft platoon again fielded 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s (4 with armament and 2 without and the 4 trailers). The HQ unit of a medium tank battalion had an anti-aircraft platoon that fielded 9 Sd.Kfz.10/4s, bringing the total number up to 18. However, the anti-aircraft platoon was only present if authorized by special order, which meant this was rare.
Each Panzergrenadier Regiment had a mechanized light anti-aircraft company. This was the same organization as in 1942, with each company having anti-aircraft platoons. In the second anti-aircraft platoon, there were 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s. A regular motorized infantry regiment had the same organization. Within a Panzer Artillerie Regiment (artillery regiment of a tank division), there was a singular anti-aircraft platoon within the HQ battery fielding 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s.
In 1943, the concept of a designated anti-aircraft battalion was reintroduced, designated as Heeres Flak Artillerie Abteilung (Eng. Army Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion). These had a singular mechanized light anti-aircraft company that followed the same organization as above, 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s. The mechanized anti-tank battalion followed the same organization with 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s, as did the reconnaissance battalion.
The same changes applied to the Waffen SS divisions, which also fielded 10/4s and later 10/5s within almost every battalion. An SS Panzer Corps had a self-propelled medium anti-aircraft company (the term battery was changed, as these units were not part of the Luftwaffe anymore). Within the anti-aircraft company, were 2 light anti-aircraft platoons fielding 5 Sd.Kfz.10/4s (3 with armament and 2 without) each. Each SS division had two SS Panzergrenadier regiments, each of which in turn had a self-propelled anti-aircraft company. These were the same as the ones used by the Wehrmacht, but with 3 anti-aircraft platoons which fielded 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s each. An SS Sturmbrigade, which was a motorized infantry division with 4 motorized infantry regiments and assault tanks, also had 18 Sd.Kfz.10/4s within their light self-propelled anti-aircraft company. The Führer Begleit Battalion was assigned a second company fielding 10/4s, bringing the total number up to 24.
A tank division in 1943 fielded 54 Sd.Kfz.10/4s (72 if authorized by special order) and a Panzer Grenadier Division also had around 54 Sd.Kfz.10/4s. Not much has been written about the Luftwaffe, but it is likely that they kept their original system of 18 per battalion. These would continue to support the Heer’s units until the war’s end. An SS tank division in 1943 had around 36 Sd.Kfz.10/4s and an SS Panzer Grenadier division also had 36 Sd.Kfz.10/4s.
After 1943, the number of Sd.Kfz.10/4s and 10/5s slowly decreased, with much more capable anti-aircraft vehicles and tanks entering the battlefield. This meant that the number, although not recorded in detail, decreased within the units.
|Number of Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5 per Division from 1939 to 1945|
|Date||Type of Division||Number of Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5 SPAAGs|
|1.9.1939||Leichte Flak Abteilung (Sf.)/Heeres-Fla-Bataillone||36|
|1.5.1940||Leichte Flak Abteilung (Sf.)/Heeres-Fla-Bataillone||36|
|1.9.1939||Independant motorized artillery observation balloon batteries||12|
|22.6.1941-1945||Leichte Flak Abteilung (Sf.)/Heeres-Fla-Bataillone||6|
|22.6.1941||Motorized Infantry Division||6|
|22.6.1941-1942||Waffen SS Panzer Division||12|
|1942||Motorized Infantry Division||30|
|1942||Waffen SS Panzer Grenadier or Tank Division||12 (36, LSSAH)|
|1942-1945||Führer Begleit Battalion||12|
|1943||Panzer Grenadier Division||54|
|1943||Panzer Division||54 (72 if authorized)|
|1943||Waffen SS Panzer Grenadier or Tank Division||36|
|1943-1945||Führer Begleit Battalion||24|
In 1944, a manual was introduced that included the doctrine and recommended use of the Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5. The following section is directly taken from said manual and translated. The purpose of the Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5 was to shoot down ground attack planes and reconnaissance planes at a maximum range of 1,200 m. Additionally, it would engage ground targets of all kinds (if penetration was possible) up to a range of 4,400 m.
The Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5 were much more mobile in urban environments and rough terrain than their motorized towed counterparts. This advantage was to be used to full effect. Vehicles such as the Sd.Kfz.10/4 were to be brought into engagements with care, because of their height and non-existent crew protection. The Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5 were highly important weapons that were only to be used in their intended role and not for towing, with the exception of the ammunition trailers.
The air situation decided the use and location of the self-propelled guns. Air targets were always prioritized. The vehicles were always meant to fight together, so the splitting of units had to be prevented, also minimizing potential threats. The vehicles were not to be used as assault guns or reconnaissance vehicles. During fog or at night, air defense was not recommended, with the exception if tracer ammunition was already loaded or low flying targets were spotted. The vehicles were to engage ground targets in hidden positions using ambush tactics. Normally, the unit or company was to be used as an escort for other units, such as tanks, infantry, or transport columns.
This is a list of situations and how the vehicles should have been used during these situations.
- Railroad transport: Depending on the situation in the air, the vehicles, as a company, were loaded either at the start or at the end of the train.
- Assembly: The vehicles were only to be assembled if the area was not protected air cover.
- March: During the march or escorting, the vehicles had to be on standby at all times. If the area was free of enemy targets, the vehicles were allowed to drive forward in advance to clear a new area.
- Rest: During rest times, the vehicles were to be left on standby whilst other units prepared for rest.
- Attack on the move: If the situation in the air allowed for it, the vehicles were to use their superior mobility and firepower to engage ground targets on the move. Air targets were not to be attacked on the move.
- Support for an attack: The vehicles were to support the most important elements of an attack. For example, the tank units were prioritized over anti-tank units.
- Attack: During an attack, the vehicles were to support the advancing bulk of forces and protect them from fighter attacks. If no air attacks occured, then the vehicles were to engage ground targets, such as anti-tank positions, machine gun positions, suppress bunker positions, and light tanks, though only at close ranges. The vehicles were not to be directly used against infantry.
- Defense: When defending, the vehicles were to be used in the effective range of the frontline. However, they were not to be directly placed on the frontlines, as the vehicles would then often be used to engage lesser priority targets.
- Retreat: When retreating, the vehicles were to guard key positions, such as bridges, until the bulk of the other forces retreated.
- Urban combat: During urban combat, the vehicles were to be used closely together with infantry and were to target roofs and basements due to the high effectiveness of their rounds and large elevation angles.
- Forest combat: The vehicles were to refrain from going into forests without sufficient protection from friendly infantry. They were to move alongside the forest border and deal support damage with their HE ammunition.
- River crossing: The vehicles were to protect the other units when crossing a river. A part of the anti-aircraft unit would be sent over to the other side as soon as possible to maximize the protection.
- Transport over the sea: The vehicles were allowed to engage air targets and ground targets, such as fast boats, from the deck when being transported over sea. They were also tasked with protecting the rest of the units during unloading.
The first Sd.Kfz.10/4s, including the Demag prototypes, were given to leichte Flak Abteilung 86 in 1938.
The Sd.Kfz.10/4 would first see action during the Polish campaign in 1939. They were allocated to support five Panzer divisions, four light divisions, and four motorized infantry divisions. Given that the Polish Air Force was mostly destroyed by the Luftwaffe at the beginning of the invasion, enemy air targets were rare.
War in the West May-June 1940
The Sd.Kfz.10/4 would see action during the Western campaign in May 1940. Interestingly, just prior to the start of the German offensive, some units, such as the 601st Anti-Aircraft Battalion, received tracer ammunition to practice providing ground fire support. Alongside other anti-aircraft weapons, they were extensively used to protect the vital bridgeheads at Dinant, Sedan, and Maastricht in mid-May 1940. During their defense, they claimed to have shot down at least 20 enemy aircraft. After the successful conclusion of the Western campaign, the German Army undertook an evaluation process of the performance of its armed forces, including weapons made in August 1940. In the review, the performance of the Sd.Kfz.10/4 was deemed sufficient and even praised when used against ground targets. In this manner, it was deemed more successful than the Panzer II, which was also armed with a 2 cm gun.
Supporting the Afrika Korps
Some vehicles were sent to North Africa as part of the Afrika Korps. They were originally part of the 5th Light Division, which was one of the first Army divisions to receive Sd.Kfz.10/4s that were not part of the Luftwaffe. In North Africa, the vehicles proved to be decent. Their 2 cm gun was enough to deal with the early Allied fighters and ground attack planes and could also knock out British armored cars and light tanks at short ranges. However, due to a lack of cover in the desert, most vehicles were knocked out by British tanks and did not survive. Due to its open combat compartment, ventilation was not a problem. Furthermore, the engine could deal with the heat, though occasionally, problems occurred when sand entered its system. The only Sd.Kfz.10/4s arrived with the Fla-Bataillon 606 (mot.) of the 5th Light Division at the start of the campaign. Until November 1942, the battalion shot down multiple Hurricane fighters and light bombers until it was destroyed in March 1943. No additional battalions or divisions in North Africa had 10/4s.
In the Balkans
Some Sd.Kfz.10/4s participated during the invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941. The vehicles were mostly used against ground targets and the occasional Allied fighter. A number of vehicles were stationed in Yugoslavia as part of the 7th SS Panzer Grenadier Division Prinz Eugen or part of Luftwaffe ground units.
Despite encountering no major threats from air targets in occupied Yugoslavia, some Sd.Kfz.10 anti-aircraft vehicles saw service there. These were likely used as fire support weapons platforms, where vehicles with good mobility were highly praised. The reason for this was that the Yugoslav Partisans would often attack and besiege smaller German and Axis garrisons. Having a vehicle with a half-track chassis that could respond quickly to places where roads were generally in a poor state was a welcome addition to the Germans. In addition, after 1943, German positions in occupied Yugoslavia were often engaged by Allied air forces stationed in liberated parts of Italy.
When the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941, the Sd.Kfz.10/4s were once again pressed into service. They once again proved to be a vital aspect of air defense in the army. As, by this point, the army had its own 10/4s and did not have to rely on the Luftwaffe, they could be used much more efficiently. At the start of Operation Barbarossa, many Soviet fighters and planes could not even take off and those which could be deployed were shot down. Due to many inexperienced fighter pilots and poor organization, many crews of Sd.Kfz.10/4s scored high kill numbers.
At the end of March 1942, the Armeeoberkommando 2 (Eng. Army Headquarters 2) issued a report to the Heeresgruppe Süd (English: Army Group South) about the performance of the Army during the previous year in the Soviet Union. In it, the following was noted:
The sensitivity of the Sturmgeschütz (StuG III) to attack on the flank made it necessary to deploy 2 cm FlaK 38 guns. It should be considered to provide two anti-aircraft batteries for every StuG Abt (each with three StuGBttr). The 2 cm Flak will be used as a light support weapon, and it also will provide the division with urgently needed anti-tank protection
While not quite clear if this related to the self-propelled version of the Sd.Kfz.10/4, it showed that the 2 cm gun was still effective when used against lightly armed targets.
Although they had a fairly decent mobility, the Soviet Union and the mud seasons would be where the Sd.Kfz.10/4 and later the Sd.Kfz.10/5, like many other German AFVs, would meet their match in terms of mobility.
In 1943, the vehicles also participated in the Battle of Kursk. By this point, Soviet fighter planes were better and more agile than in 1941, which resulted in reduced kill counts for the 10/4s.
After the Battle of Kursk, in October 1943, the Sd.Kfz.10/5 entered service. The Sd.Kfz.10/5 would soon be organized into regular units and acted in the same way as the 10/4. Even though the extra protection provided by the shield resulted in fewer crew casualties, mobility during the mud seasons was still a problem. The improved 2 cm Flak 38, although of the same caliber, had a much higher rate of fire, making it more effective at shooting down Soviet ground attack planes. Both vehicles were active on the Eastern Front until replacement 10/4s and spare parts stopped coming in 1944 and 1945 and the vehicles were eventually lost.
In 1945, one of the last recorded use of Sd.Kfz.10/5s was that of leichte Flak-Abteilung 81 (Sf.) within the 1. Flak Korps. They were used in the defense of Tarnów and Krakow.
In September 1943, the Allied forces invaded Sicily and, later, other parts of Italy. The Sd.Kfz.10/4s from the Afrika Korps had all been destroyed and new ones had to be sent to Italy. These reinforcements also include the new Sd.Kfz.10/5s. However, Allied air supremacy quickly became a problem in Italy, as many Sd.Kfz.10/4s and 10/5s were overwhelmed by the sheer number of Allied bombers and fighters. Until 1945, the vehicles got pushed back to the Alps, and eventually all were lost.
In 1944, the Allied force landed in Normandy. Many German reserve units were called from all fronts to try and stop the advancing forces. The German units were also supported by the Sd.Kfz.10/4s and 10/5s, but they could not stop the Allied air supremacy. Furthermore, Allied fighter planes, similarly to the Soviet ones, had greatly improved. The single tube 2 cm Flak was obsolete and inferior to other German anti-aircraft tanks.
The Sd.Kfz.10/4 and, later, the 10/5 were successful vehicles in terms of combat performance and were successful in fulfilling their role as a stopgap until dedicated anti-aircraft vehicles entered service. During the early years, they provided sufficient protection against fighters and ground attack planes. Although their armor protection was next to nothing and resulted in a high crew casualty rate, the Sd.Kfz.10/5 and 10/4 with improvised armor at least provided protection for some of the crew against rifle fire. However, they often fell victim to the large number of Allied tanks and anti-tank weapons, which greatly increased the loss rate for vehicles in general. However, the reason why the High Command kept the vehicles in service and production, even though they were intended as a stopgap, was that no designated anti-aircraft vehicles were ever built in larger numbers. In 1944, with Allied air superiority and much more capable vehicles, such as the Flakpanzer IV variants, the Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5 were slowly replaced.
Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5 Ammunition Carriers
In 1939, when the Sd.Kfz.10/4s were issued to Luftwaffe ground units, there was a problem, as there were not enough 2 cm Flak guns for Sd.Kfz.10/4s. Furthermore, due to the demands for ammunition carriers, since regular motorized vehicles often could not keep up with their mechanized counterparts, some Sd.Kfz.10/4s were converted into ammunition carriers. However, they were first used in 1941 with the Army, before that regular Sd.Kfz.10 were used as ammunition carriers. The exact number is not known, however in theory, for every 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s, 2 were unarmed. Their task was not only to carry the ammunition, but also tow the ammunition trailers. Since 4 ammunition trailers were issued per 6 Sd.Kfz.10/4s in general, 2 were also towed by regular 10/4s.
The conversion or production was done by either removing or not installing the 2 cm gun. However, the platform and mount were still there, making it possible to add the gun. Often, a canvas would be strapped over the ammunition storage compartment to protect it from the weather. One such ammunition vehicle differs from a regular Sd.Kfz.10 by the side platforms and 2 cm ammunition on the sides.
Sd.Kfz.10/5 with 5 cm PaK
Although most 5 cm Sd.Kfz.10 conversions were done using the regular Sd.Kfz.10, some anti-tank units modified their Sd.Ffz. 10/5s to mount a 5 cm Pak instead of the 2 cm gun.
Sd.Kfz.10 Field Modification to Sd.Kfz 10/4 Standard
At least on one occasion, due to a lack of Sd.Kfz.10/4 or 5 vehicles, troops modified a regular Sd.Kfz.10 by placing the 2 cm Flak gun on its transport compartment. The compartment itself was heavily modified in this case, adding a wooden frame on which the gun was placed.
An unknown number of captured Sd.Kfz.10/5s were reused by the US Army in 1944. Captured in Italy in May 1944, the 5th US Army used at least one of these 10/5s. US troops repainted the vehicle in olive green and applied US tactical markings.
Another example of Allied service was the British 6th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment, which, after the start of the Normandy offensive, captured at least one such vehicle. In early July, two soldiers of this unit, C. Davies and L. Walden, managed to shoot down two German fighters with it, a Bf 109 and the FW 190.
Given their relatively large numbers, some Sd.Kfz 10/4 and 10/5 SPAAGs were also captured by the Soviets. It is unclear if they used them against their former masters, but it is also quite possible given that the Soviets employed captured German equipment from time to time.
There are at least two and a half surviving Sd.Kfz.10/4s and one Sd.Kfz.10/5.
The Sd.Kfz.10/4 and its improved cousin 10/5 were the first mass produced self-propelled anti-aircraft vehicles that entered service with the German Army. Thanks to their half-track chassis they possessed excellent mobility in contrast to other improvised truck based or towed anti-aircraft weapons. For the earlier stages of the war their 2 cm guns were more than enough to deal against both air and ground to enemy targets. By later stages of the war, while this gun was still capable of aching combat success, it was becoming too weak to deal with new enemy aircraft designs. Additionally, the 2 cm Flak gun could not be used against most Allied tanks and could only deal with infantry and soft targets, such as trucks or light tanks. The upgraded Flak 38 did not change the situation significantly. Armor protection was also quite weak. Initially most vehicles did not even receive the gun shield, making the crew completely exposed to enemy fire.
The Germans were quite aware of this vehicle limitations and introduced a series of replacement vehicles that were better armed and protected (in case of tank based anti-aircraft vehicles). But, as these new improved vehicles could not be built in sufficient numbers the Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5 remained in service up to the end of the war.
Sd.Kfz.10/4 and 10/5, 2 cm Flak 30/38 (Sf.) auf gepanzerten Fahrgestell leichter Zugkraftwagen 1-tonTechnical Specifications
|Crew||7 (Commander, driver, and five gun operators)|
|Dimensions||Length 4.75, Width 2.15, Height 2 m|
|Engine||Maybach HL 42 water-cooled 100 hp @ 2,800 rpm engine|
|Speed||65 km/h, 30 km/h (cross-country)|
|Range||220 km, 150 km|
|Primary Armament||one 2 cm Flak 30 or 38|
|Elevation||-12°/-20° to +90°|
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