During the war, the German Army faced increasing numbers of enemy tanks. As the German industry lacked the capacity to produce large quantities of tanks, another solution was urgently needed. The most obvious solution was to produce anti-tank destroyers which were cheaper, easier to conceal, and could carry larger guns. The German already had the excellent StuG III, which managed to destroy enemy vehicles in the thousands. But, in 1943, work began on a new vehicle based on the Panzer IV tank chassis, later known as Jagpanzer IV.
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 and thus the Jagdpanzer IV was created.
The story of the Jagpanzer IV began in September 1942, when the Waffenamt issued a request for the development of a new design of Sturmgeschütz – the ‘Sturmgeschütze neue Art’ (Stu.Gesch.n.A.) series. The new vehicle was to be armed with the 7.5 cm KwK L/70 gun and protected with 100 mm frontal and 40 to 50 mm of side armor. It was intended to have the lowest possible height, a top speed of 25 km/h and a weight of up to 26-tonnes.
The manufacturer Alkett was one of the first to present a project of such vehicle based on the Panzer IV chassis that could be armed either with a 7.5 cm L/70 (Gerät No.822) or 10.5 cm (Gerät No.823) gun. In late October 1942, a scale model was even presented to Adolf Hitler. While Hitler was satisfied with this proposal, for unknown reasons, the Alkett vehicle was never accepted. The future development of the Sturmgeschütze neue Art was to include components of the Panzer III tanks. Due to the high demand of StuG III, which was based on the Panzer III chassis, this was not possible. In addition, there was a proposal to design and build a completely new chassis. Due to the general lack of industrial capacity and time, this was not possible either. So, the most obvious solution was the Panzer IV chassis, as it was available in sufficient numbers. Krupp proposes its own Jagdpanzer (Panzerjäger IVb E39) project, based on the Geschützwagen IVb with six larger road wheels per side, but nothing came from this. Another change to the initials plans was the choice main gun, as the longer 7.5 cm L/70 gun was needed for the Panther tank and the 7.5 cm gun L/48 had to be used instead.
Vogtlandische Maschinenfabrik AG (Vomag) proposed its own project to the German Army, the Gerät No.821. The wooden mockup was completed by May 1943, when it was presented to Adolf Hitler. This wooden mockup was different from the later-built vehicles as it was based on an unchanged Panzer IV Ausf.F tank chassis. After the presentation of the new Jagdpanzer IV, Adolf Hitler was satisfied and ordered that its development should continue. A working prototype made of soft steel and was presented to Hitler in late 1943. This vehicle was similar to the wooden mockup by having the rounded front corners but the Panzer IV’s front hull was heavily modified with new angled armor plates. In addition, on the Jagdpanzer IV’s superstructure sides, firing ports for a 9 mm MP-38/40 submachine gun were placed (one on each side). Both of these features would be dropped on the production vehicles in favour of a simpler armor design and deletion of the side firing ports. Depending on the source, a small number (probably a few) of the 0-series were built and used only for training.
While the Jagdpanzer IV’s development history seems straightforward at first glance, it was actually followed by a fight between the German artillery and tank branches. Initially, the Jagdpanzer IV’s development was initiated by the artillery branch in the hope of improving its Sturmgeschütz (StuG III) vehicles with a new design known as the Sturmgeschütze neue Art. But, during its development, General Heinz Guderian insisted that it should be reclassified as a Panzerjäger and assigned to the Panzer units. In the end, Guderian won and the Jagdpanzer IV was allocated to existing Panzerjäger units (which were part of Panzer and Panzer Grenadier Divisions) instead of the Sturmartillerie (assault artillery) units. This led to the consequence that the new Jagdpanzer IV was allocated to units that had little prior experience with this kind of vehicle. At the same time, the Sturmartillerie units which had experience operating such vehicles were denied a weapon that could have potentially increased their effectiveness.
To complicate the whole situation further, sources are not clear about the influence that Guderian had on the Jagdpanzer IV development. According to some sources, Guderian was against the new Jagdpanzer IV project from the start, as its development and production would put enormous stress on the Panzer IV production. Whatever the case, what is certain is that Adolf Hitler liked this idea and asked for the start of production and, later in the war, he asked for the Jagdpanzer IV to replace the Panzer IV tank on the production lines.
This vehicle had several different designations assigned to it during the war, including Klein Panzerjäger der Firma Vomag (May 1943), Stu.Gesch.n.A. auf Pz.IV (December 1943), Panzerjäger IV (March 1944), Jagdpanzer IV Ausf.F (September 1944) and Jagdpanzer IV (November 1944). As today it is generally best known under the Jagdpanzer IV designation, this article will use this name throughout.
The Jagdpanzer IV was built by using the chassis of the Panzer IV Ausf.H tank, which was, for the most part, unchanged. The most obvious change was the new angled superstructure and the redesigned sharply angled lower front hull.
Suspension and Running Gear
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 double 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 standard Panzer IV’s return rollers were, later during the production, replaced with ones made of steel due to the lack of rubber. In addition, by the end of production, some vehicles had only three return rollers on each side. The ground clearance was also increased to 40 cm. Depending on the need or availability, wider (Ostketten) tracks could be used instead of regular tracks in order to increase driving performance in mud or snow.
The engine was the Maybach HL 120 TRM which produced 265 hp at 2600 rpm. The maximum speed was 40 km/h (15-18 km/h cross-country) with an operational range (with 470 l fuel) of 210 km. 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 original position of the Panzer IV fuel tanks (located under the turret) had to be changed in order to lower the vehicle’s height. Two fuel tanks were placed under the gun and a third smaller one in the engine compartment. In order to refuel the front tanks, two (once on each side) fuel filler pipes were located behind the front drive sprockets.
The 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 to produce. The upper hull was built out of surface-hardened steel plates (Type E 22) manufactured by Witkowitzer Bergbau und Eisenhütten.
For the lower hull, the upper front armor plate was 60 mm thick at a 45° angle, and the lower plate was 50 mm at a 55° angle. The side armor was 30 mm thick, the rear 20 mm and the bottom was 10 mm. The hull crew compartment had 20 mm of bottom armor.
The new upper superstructure frontal armor was 60 mm at a 50° angle, the sides were 40 mm at a 30° angle, the rear armor was 30 mm, and the top was 20 mm. The engine compartment design and armor were unchanged with 20 mm all around and 10 mm of top armor. In May 1944, in the hope of improving the vehicle’s survivability, the front armor thickness of the hull and the superstructure was increased to 80 mm. The Jagpanzers IV were also provided with Zimmerit anti-magnetic coating, but in the late stages of the war, its use was abandoned. Additional 5 mm thick armor plates were also provided for extra protection of the engine compartment’s sides. The Jagdpanzer IV 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.
The tank destroyer’s main armament was the 7.5 cm PaK 39 L/48 cannon produced by Rheinmetall-Borsig. In essence, this was the same weapon as the 7.5 cm StuK 40 gun used on the StuG, but slightly modified to be mounted on the new vehicle. The elevation of this gun went from –8° to +15° (–5° to +15° or –6° to +20° depending on the source) and the traverse was 15° to right and 12° left. The main gun was not placed at the vehicle’s centre but was instead moved some 20 cm to the right side, mainly because of the gun sights. The gun was protected by the round-shaped Topfblende gun mantlet. The ammunition supply for the main gun was 79 rounds. Usually, half were armor-piercing (7.5 cm Pzgr.) and the other half high explosive rounds (7.5 cm Sprgr.). This was not always the case as, depending on the combat situations and needs, the ammunition load could be changed. According to some sources, the first few pre-production vehicles were armed with the 7.5 cm L/43 gun.
Initially, the Jagdpanzer IV vehicles produced were equipped with a muzzle brake. However, firing trials held in April 1944 showed that the gun could be fired successfully without the gun muzzle brake. The introduction of an improved recoil cylinder also affected the decision of not installing the muzzle brake anymore. In the field, Jagdpanzer IV crews often removed the muzzle brake due to the dust clouds created during firing. This reduced visibility but more importantly, gave away the vehicle’s position to the enemy.
The later-produced vehicles did not have the threaded ends on the barrel, as they were no longer needed. There were also experiments with fixed non-recoiling mounts, known as ‘neur Art Starr’. Two Jagdpanzers IV were modified for this purpose in September 1944, though this was unsuccessful and soon abandoned, but continued on the Jagdpanzer 38(t).
The secondary weapon used was the 7.92 mm 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. Instead, the machine gun could be fired from two front gun ports (located on the left and right of the main gun), which were 13 cm wide. These two machine gun ports were protected with hemispherical-shaped armored covers. After March 1944, the left machine gun port was removed because it was difficult to use.
An additional machine gun mount (Rundumsfeuer) could be placed on top of the superstructure. It could be fired from inside the vehicle. However, the use of the Rundumsfeuer machine gun mount was also deleted early in the production run. The Jagdpanzer IV was also equipped with the Nahverteidigungswaffe (close defense grenade launcher), with some 16 rounds of ammunition (high explosive and smoke rounds), located on the vehicle top. But, due to the general lack of resources, not all vehicles were provided with this weapon. In such cases, the Nahverteidigungswaffe opening hole was closed off with a round plate.
The four-man crew consisted of the commander, gunner, loader/radio operator, and the driver. The driver’s position was on the front left side, but his view of the surrounding area was limited, as he only had a front-mounted periscope. Behind him was the gunner’s position, who was provided with a Sfl.Z.F.1a gun sight for acquiring targets. When in use, the sight was projected through the sliding armored cover on the vehicle’s top armor. Behind these two was the commander’s position, who 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 Sf.14Z 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 7.92 mm 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 this case, the machine gun port could be closed by pivoting the 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 7.92 mm MG 34. Nearly all periscopes were protected with an armored flap cover. The crew could enter the vehicle through two hatches located on the top of the vehicle. There was an additional floor escape hatch door in the center of the vehicle that could be used in the case of an emergency.
In order to remove any extra weight from the front, most spare parts and auxiliary equipment were moved to the rear engine compartment later during the production. This included things such as spare tracks, wheels, repair tools, fire extinguisher, and the crew’s equipment.
Jagdpanzer IV Befehlswagen
An unknown number of Jagdpanzer IV were modified to be used as Befehlswagen (command vehicles). These vehicles had an additional FuG 8 radio station installed in addition to one extra crew member. The Befehlswagen can be easily identified by the added second radio antenna located on the rear left side.
From the very start, the new Jagdpanzer IV project was intended to be armed with the longer 7.5 cm L/70 gun. As these were not available in sufficient numbers, this was initially not possible. Once the 7.5 cm L/70 gun production was increased so that sufficient numbers could be spared for the Jagdpanzer IV project, work on an improved Jagdpanzer IV armed with this gun was immediately started. After a period of modification and testing in the first half of 1944, production of a new Jagdpanzer IV version armed with the long 7.5 cm gun finally begun in November 1944. The new vehicle was named Panzer IV/70 (V) and by the time war ended, under 1,000 had been produced.
Due to the obsolescence of the Panzer IV, further attempts were made to find a way of arming it with the long 7.5 cm gun. As installation in the turret was not possible, the only practical and real solution was a self-propelled configuration. In order to speed up the development on an unchanged Panzer IV tank chassis, a slightly modified Panzer IV/70 (V) superstructure (same as the Jagdpanzer IV but modified to be able to carry the long 7.5 cm gun) was placed. The new vehicle was named Panzer IV/70 (A). While intended to be easily constructed, by the end of the war only 278 were actually built
The production of the Jagdpanzer IV was meant to commence with the first 10 vehicles in September 1943. The planned production numbers were then meant to be gradually increased by 10 more vehicles each month. The estimated serial production for 1943 was to be 10 in September, 20 in October, 30 in November and 40 in December.
However, due to many delays, mostly due to the poor quality of the supplied armored superstructures by Witkowitz and the lack of gun mounts, only 10 vehicles were completed in December 1943. By the end of January 1944, only 30 were completed and issued to the German Army. From May 1944, Vomag stopped producing the Panzer IV tank and concentrated on the production of the Jagdpanzer IV vehicle instead. By the time the production of the Jagdpanzer IV stopped in November 1944, some 750 vehicles had been built by Vomag. Monthly production (besides the first 30 vehicles) was 45 in February, 75 in March, 106 in April, 90 in May, 120 in June, 125 in July, 92 in August, 19 in September, 46 in October and the last two in November 1944. The sudden drop in numbers in September was due to the Allied bombing of the Vomag factory.
Of course, like many other German vehicles, the exact production numbers are different depending on the author. The previously mentioned numbers are according to T.L. Jentz and H.L. Doyle (Panzer Tracts No. 9-2 Jagdpanzer IV). Author T. J Gander (Tanks in Detail: JgdPz IV, V, VI and Hetzer), gives a number of 769 build vehicles. This number is confirmed by P. Chamberlain (Encyclopedia of German Tanks of World War Two – Revised Edition), who also states that 26 more chassis were also built. Authors K. Mucha and G. Parada (Jagdpanzer IV L/48), give an estimation of 769 to 784 of produced vehicles. Author P. Thomas (Images of war: Hitler’s Tank Destroyers) mentions that some 800 were built.
The Jagdpanzer IV was used to equip Panzerjäger Abteilungen of Panzer and Panzer Grenadier Divisions. The Panzerjäger Abteilungen that were assigned to Panzer Divisions had two companies with 10 vehicles each and another vehicle for the commander of the unit. The Panzer Grenadier Panzerjäger Abteilungen were larger, with 14 vehicles in each company and three command vehicles. Of course, depending on the availability and combat situation, the number of given vehicles per Panzerjäger Abteilungen was sometimes below or above the official nominal strength of the unit. For example, the Panzer Lehr Abteilung had around 31 vehicles.
The Jagdpanzer IV had all the characteristics needed to be an excellent tank hunter (good speed, armor protection, firepower, small size). It would see action on nearly all fronts the German Army fought on at the time, in the East, in the West and on the Italian front.
During the Allied landings in Normandy in June 1944, there were only 62 Jagdpanzer ready for operational service. These were allocated to the Panzer Lehr Division (31), 2nd Panzer Division (21) and the last 10 to the 12th SS Panzer Division. The Panzer Lehr Division was actually the first German unit to be equipped with these vehicles. The 12th SS Panzer Division was to be equipped with 11 additional vehicles, but these did not reach the front until 22nd June. The fighting in France was taking a heavy toll on the few Jagdpanzer IV and, for example, by 1st July, the Panzer Lehr Division still had 28 vehicles, but only 9 were fully operational. While Jagdpanzer IV saw extensive service during the Liberation of France, their impact was minimal due to the small numbers available. In the following months, six more divisions had Abteilungen equipped with Jagdpanzer IVs (17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division, 9th, 11th and 116th Panzer Divisions and the 10th SS Panzer Division).
During the Ardennes Offensive in December 1944, there were some 92 Jagdpanzer IV ready for action. Maybe the best known Jagdpanzer IV ace was SS Oberscharfuhrer Roy, who managed to destroy around 36 enemy tanks from D-Day until he was killed in late December 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge.
In Italy, there were 83 Jagdpanzer IV within the German armored formations. The first unit to use the Jagdpanzer IV in combat there was the Fallschirm Panzer Division ‘Hermann Göring’. In April 1944, ‘Hermann Göring’ was equipped with 21 vehicles. The 3rd and the 15th Panzer Grenadier Divisions were equipped with 31 vehicles each.
The majority of the produced Jagdpanzer IVs were deployed on the Eastern Front in an attempt to stop the Soviet advance. They saw heavy action there, but also be used in the role of tanks or assault guns, roles for which it was not designed for. For example, while attacking Soviet lines at Homok (Hungary) on the 19th December 1944, the Panzerjäger Abteilung 43 lost three out of four Jagdpanzer IV.
By the end of 1944, there were some 311 (209 operational) Jagdpanzer IVs on the Eastern Front, 87 (59 operational) on the Western Front and only 8 (6 operational) on the Italian Front.
After the War
Strangely, the Jagdpanzer IV would see limited combat action after the war. Around five vehicles were given to Syria in 1950 by the French, though depending on the sources, it is possible that the Soviets supplied them with these vehicles. During the combat with the Israeli forces in 1967 during the 6 Days War, one Jagdpanzer IV was lost when it was hit by a tank round. The remaining were withdrawn from the front and probably placed in reserve or even stored. These Jagdpanzers IV were still listed in the Syrian army inventory during 1990-1991. What became of them is, unfortunately, it is not known.
As Bulgaria was part of the Axis alliance during World War II, it was supplied with German equipment, including some StuG III, Panzer III and IV and small numbers of Jagdpanzer IV’s. During the Cold War (Bulgaria was now part of the Eastern Communist Bloc) in order to protect its border with Turkey, the older German supplied armored vehicles were used as static bunkers including the Jagdpanzer IV. After the collapse of the Soviet Union these vehicles were abandoned by the Bulgarian army. They would remain there until 2007 when the Bulgarian army made extensive recovering operation in order to salvage these vehicles. One of the salvaged vehicles was a Jagdpanzer IV.
The wrecks recovered by the Bulgarian Army can be seen on this video.
Today, several vehicles have survived the war around the world. One Jagdanzer IV can be found in the Bulgarian Museum of Glory in Yambol. There were three vehicles, including one of the 0-series located in France, at the Saumur Armor Museum. The 0-series vehicle was given to Germany and can be seen in the Panzermuseum Munster together with another Jagdpanzer IV that was already there. One more can be seen in Switzerland at the Panzermuseum Thun. There is also one located in Syria.
The Jagdpanzer IV was initially designed to replace the mass-produced StuG III. This was never implemented and, instead of Sturmartillerie units, it was allocated to Panzer units. In general, the Jagdpanzer IV had more or less the same operational combat characteristics as the StuG III. 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 Panzer IV was already in production, had the same gun but mounted in a turret, increasing its effectiveness. The Jagdpanzer IV was draining significant and necessary resources needed for the Panzer IV production. It was built too late and in too few numbers to really have any impact on the whole war.
Early production Jagdpanzer IV.
Jagdpanzer IV, Kampfgruppe Von Luck, Normandy, June 1944.
Jagdpanzer IV lost in France in 1944 and photographed by Sergeant Walther Shrek of the 3rd Armored Division.
Captured Russian Jagdpanzer IV, 3rd Ukrainian Front, Hungary, March 1945.
Jagdpanzer IV L/48, Germany, April 1945.
Jagdpanzer IV L/48 in winter camouflage, 53rd Panzerjäger Abteilung, 5th Panzer Division, East Prussia, January 1945.
Jagdpanzer IV L/48, 3rd SS Panzerjäger Abteilung, 3rd SS Panzer Division, Hungary, March 1945.
|Dimensions (L-W-H)||6.85 x 3.17 x 1.86 m|
|Total weight, battle-ready||24 tonnes|
|Crew||4 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)|
|Propulsion||Maybach HL 120 TRM, 272 hp @ 2800 rpm|
|Speed||40 km/h (25 mph), 15-18 km/h (cross country)|
|Operational range||210 km, 130 km (cross country)|
|Traverse||15° right and 12° left|
|Elevation||-8° to +15°|
|Armament||7.5 cm (2.95 in) Pak 39 L/48 (79 rounds)
7.9 mm (0.31 in) MG 42, 1200 rounds
|Superstructure armor||Front 60 mm, sides 40 mm, rear 30 mm and top 20 mm|
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