Light, medium & heavy tanks, armored cars
Around 90,000 armored vehicles by May 1945
- Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.182 Tiger II
- Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf.E, Sd.Kfz.181, ‘Tiger I’
- Panzer I
- Panzer II
- Panzer II Ausf.G (VK 9.01)
- Panzerkampfwagen 17R/18R 730(f)
- Panzerkampfwagen 35(t)
- Panzerkampfwagen 38(t)
- Sturmgeschütz III
- Sturmgeschütz IV
- Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär
- Sturmpanzer VI, 38cm RW61 auf Sturmmörser Tiger ‘Sturmtiger’
- 10.5cm K. gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette IVa – Dicker Max
- 4,7 cm PaK (t) (Sfl) auf Pz.Kpfw. I (Sd.Kfz.101) ohne Turm, Panzerjäger I
- 7.5cm Pak 40 auf Raupenschlepper Ost (RSO)
- 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw III und IV (Sf) Sd.Kfz. 164 “Nashorn”
- Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
- Jagdpanzer IV
- Marder I auf Geschutzwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)
- Marder II Sd.Kfz.131
- Marder II Sd.Kfz.132
- Panzer IV/70 (A)
- Panzer IV/70 (V)
- Panzerjäger 38(t) für 7.62 cm PaK 36(r) (Sd.Kfz. 139) Marder III
- Panzerjäger Tiger (P) Ferdinand
- 10.5cm leFH 16 (Sf.) auf Geschützwagen FCM 36(f)
- 10.5cm leFH 16 auf Geschützwagen Mk.VI(e)
- 10.5cm leFH 18 (Sf.) auf Geschützwagen 39H(f)
- 10.5cm leFH 18/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen IVb
- 10.5cm leFH 18/3 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen B2(f)
- 10.5cm leFH 18/40 auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)
- 15cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t)
- 15cm sFH 13/1 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)
- 15cm sIG 33 (Sf) auf Panzerkampfwagen I Ausf. B “Bison”
- 15cm sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf)
- Grille 15cm SPG
- Hummel 15cm SPG
- Hummel-Wespe 10.5cm SPG
- Wespe 10.5cm SPG
- Flakpanzer 38(t) auf Selbstfahrlafette 38(t) Ausf.M (Sd.Kfz.140)
- Flakpanzer I
- Flakpanzer IV (2cm Flak 38 Vierling) ‘Wirbelwind’
- Flakpanzer IV (3.7cm Flak 43) “Möbelwagen”
- Flakpanzerkampfwagen IV 3.7 cm Flak 43 “Ostwind”
- Sd.Kfz.231 6-rad
- Sd.Kfz.231 8-rad
- Sd.Kfz.234 Puma
- Sd.Kfz.263 6-rad
- Sd.Kfz.263 Funkspähwagen
- Steyr ADGZ
- 10.5cm leFH 18/40/2 L/28 (Sf) auf Geschützwagen III/IV
- 10.5cm leFH 18/6 auf Waffenträger IVb
- 3.7 cm Flakzwilling auf Panther Fahrgestell “341”
- Borgward Light Tank
- Demag D II ‘Liliput’
- Gefechtsaufklärer Leopard (VK16.02)
- German Tank-based Railway Guns
- German WWII prototypes
- Grille 17/21 Self-Propelled Guns
- Leichte Flakpanzer IV 3 cm “Kugelblitz”
- Mahlkuch Armored Cover
- Panzer II Ausf. H & Ausf. M (VK9.03)
- Panzer IV mit Hydrostatischem Antrieb
- Panzer Sfl. Ic.
- Panzerspähwagen II Ausführung Škoda
- Pz.Kpfw. Panther With 8.8 cm Gun Design Proposals
- Raupenschlepper Ost Artillery SPG
- Škoda T-25
- Tigerjäger Design B
- Waffenträger Panthers – Heuschrecke, Grille, Skorpion
- 12.2cm FK(r) auf Geschützwagen Lorraine Schlepper(f)
- 15cm sIG 33 L/11 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III Ausf.H (Sf)
- 8cm Schwerer Granatwefer 34 auf Panzerspähwagen AMR 35(f)
- Beutespähwagen BA-10M mit 2cm KwK 30 L/55
- Ersatz M10s – Panthers in Disguise
- Infanterie PzKpfw MK II 748(e) “Oswald”
- Leichter Raupenschlepper Famo
- Panzerkampfwagen 35R 731(f) mit T-26 Turm
- Panzerkampfwagen KV-1B 756(r) (KV-1 with 7.5cm KwK 40)
- Sd.Kfz.250 mit 5 cm PaK 38
German-related tactic articles
- Charge at Krojanty
- Effectiveness of Tactical Air Strikes in World War II – “Tank busting”
- Esigenza C3 – The Italian Invasion of Malta
- The Soviet 21st Tank Brigade’s Assault On Kalinin
- The Soviet Counter-Attack at Verba
German-related tech articles
Aftermath of the Versailles treaty
During WW1, after the initial shock, the Germans paid little attention to the idea of tanks in trench warfare. They mostly relied on special infantry units to perform breakthroughs, like the famous Sturmtruppen. It was thought that tanks were too vulnerable1. However, after the successes of isolated British tanks, which made their way into German lines, they first began to consider an appropriate response, and then a tank of their own. The A7V, a mobile fortress, was their only successful attempt in this direction, and only a handful were produced until the armistice. Several light tanks were also considered, but none reached production in time. In 1919, the drastic Versailles treaty imposed severe limitations on military personal and material, and it also forbade tank construction. Only a handful armored cars were retained for police duties.
Later on, in 1933, maneuvers incorporated “dummy tanks”, until the industry would be ready to work on the first indigenous model. Many models were developed in Sweden or the Soviet Union, earning some much valued experience. In 1934, the first Panzerkampfwagen I was issued to the Wehrmacht, with the ordnance (Waffenamt) designation Sd.Kfz. 101. Two years later, the German tank force was augmented by the Panzer II and the first Panzer IIIs. There were capable against the armored vehicles of neighboring powers, like Czechoslovakia and Poland, but not against those of France, and even less against the USSR.
Panzer development (1936-45)
Tanks available prior to the Campaign of France (1940)
The Panzer I and II were considered transitional models, designed for training and to prepare the industry for future, more advanced, vehicles. Despite this, they were forced into combat, mostly as scout vehicles. The Panzer II remained in service for quite a long time. But the real game changer was the Panzer III. After a long elaboration, both technical and theoretical, this first true German medium tank entered mass production quite late, with the Ausf. E/F versions in 1939. Until the Ausf. L upgrade, all mounted the same 37 mm (1.46 in) main gun, completely inefficient against the well armored medium tanks of the Allies, and the armor was quite weak. But these drawback were compensated by many other qualities, including reliability, speed, a radio and a three-man turret.
The Panzer III, after armor and gun upgrades, formed the bulk of the Wehrmacht, until late 1942. By then, another model became available in great numbers, the Panzer IV. Conceived by Guderian and developed in 1936 as a support medium tank (Begleitwagen), it was available in limited quantities during the battle of France, but formed a large part of the Wehrmacht in the summer of 1941, during Operation Barbarossa. It borrowed many components from the Panzer III, but mounted a 75 mm (2.95 in) howitzer intended to deal against fortified positions. In this Wehrmacht duo, the Panzer III was intended to deal with other tanks, while the Panzer IV provided infantry support. But as the limitations of the former became evident, the latter was quickly upgraded with long-barrel, high velocity AT guns. This model became the mainstay of the German armor until 1945.
Operation Barbarossa: The Eastern Front (1941-42)
When German officers received alarming reports of Soviet “invincible tanks”, investigation followed on some captured KV-1s and T-34s. For the first time, an unpleasant feeling of inferiority spread through the Wehrmacht, especially after the merciless winter of December 1941-February 1942. Under the insistence of Hitler and Eastern Front generals, two new design were quickly put on the drawing board. The Panzer V, also called the Panther, and the Tiger, or Panzer VI were meant as an answer to the shortcomings of their predecessors. Both were equipped with excellent guns. The Tiger’s KwK 36 was an adapted anti-aircraft gun, with ultra-high velocity, excellent range and new specially crafted armor-piercing and hollow-charge shells, notably the costly tungsten rounds. Both tanks first appeared after a year and a half development, and they were ready in time for the battle of Kursk, in July 1943. They gave cold sweats to the Russian tank crews, as well as the Allies later, in Italy and France.
Both the Tiger and the Panther were, on paper, some of the best designs in the world when they came into service. However, both of them suffered from serious teething problems due to them being rushed into production and to the front lines. The Panther became the second most produced German tank of the war, but neither of these vehicles was produced to the numbers reached by the Allied tanks. While this is generally attributed to a German “quality is better than quantity” thinking, it was actually due to a long list of factors, ranging from demographics, war bombing, the way the German industry was set up and German military thinking.
Costs speak for themselves. While a Panther was only a little more costly than a Panzer III (117,000 RM vs 91,000 RM) the Tiger was twice as costly (250,000-300,000 RM). The very early series, still incorporating uniquely designed parts and accumulated development costs, were probably up to eight times more costly than the average StuG. But, with parts commonality and simplification, new modular production methods, and a huge, expendable forced labor force (from concentration camps), a significant numbers of each model was built until the end of the war. If the Panther was the most cost-effective German AFV, and perhaps the most effective tank of WW2, the Tiger made such an impression, that it quickly shaped its own legend, besides any propaganda effort. For its time, it was a hardened steel mobile bunker, equipped with one of the most awe-inspiring guns of the war, the German anti-aircraft 88 mm (3.46 in). The before feared T-34 and many Allied tanks, including the M4 Sherman, were now easy targets from up to three miles away. With limited availability, this machine was only given to young, highly motivated crews.
The Tiger had serious tendencies to breakdown, was slow and had a limited range due to very high consumption figures. The complicated drivetrain was difficult to repair, as were the tracks. Moreso, Tigers disabled and abandoned were often lost for good, as towing was difficult. However, the large tracks were an advantage on soft grounds (snow and mud), lowering ground pressure. In fact both tanks incorporated a great deal of wartime learnt improvements.
Turretless Panzers: A misjudged success story
Both the Panzer III and IV were quite expensive, and new mass-producible, cheaper variants for infantry support and tank-hunting were sought. The most expensive part of these models, the turret, was replaced by a new, lowered hull, in the StuG III and IV, and their tank-hunter equivalents. Ultimately, with versions equipped with the 75 mm (2.95 in) short-barrel howitzer or AT guns like the Pak 40, the StuGs formed a growing part of the AFV production by 1943, and were the unsung metal heroes, the jacks-of-all-trade of the Wehrmacht. More robust, more difficult to hit, easier to repair, they added their numerical advantage, with no sacrifice to quality. The average cost of the StuG III was 80,000 RM, compared to 95,000 for a regular Panzer III. With 9400 StuG IIIs, 1200 StuH IIIs and 1100 StuG IVs, more were built than any other German tank or SPG of the war. Some StuGs were used extensively as tank-hunters, and proved more lethal even than the Tiger, with some 20,000 kills credited to these small hunters. They simply used shorter range and ambush tactics, enabled by their lower silhouette, easy to camouflage.
Panzerjägers: Hunting spirit
As soon as the fall of Poland, German planners thought of converting existing platform in order to mount heavier ordnance than the regular 37 mm (1.46 in) PaK 36, especially to deal with the well protected French and British tanks during the upcoming campaigns. At this point, they looked upon the excellent Czech AT 47 mm gun (1.85 in), already available in quantity, and mounted it on the Panzer I chassis. Soon after, the elderly Panzer II chassis was chosen to carry the 7.5 cm (2.95 in) PaK, as the Marder II, as did some captured French models (Marder I). The Czech 38(t) provided two other variants, Marder III and the famous Jagdpanzer 38(t) (ubiquitously and incorrectly known as the Hetzer). The Panzer IV chassis allowed the construction of a low-profile turretless vehicle using the StuG recipe, armed with with a long barrel high velocity PaK 39, the Jagdpanzer IV. Attempts to use the deadly 88 mm (3.46 in) gave birth to several other variants.
The Nashorn (also called Hornisse), was an adaptation of the Panzer IV chassis with said gun. The later stages of the war gave birth to more advanced vehicles, like the Jagdpanther, Elefant, and Jagdtiger. The latter, only produced in small numbers, was equipped with the most awesome piece of anti-tank artillery ever carried during the war, a 128 mm (5 in) gun. The tank itself, weighing nearly 72 tons, had a high consumption, suffered a lot of breakdowns, and was tactically difficult to move, as it was forbidden from crossing many bridges.
Later Panzers and the defensive war (1944-45)
Numbers alone were not enough during WWII. In face of odds rarely encountered by an army, of ten to one numerical inferiority on almost every front in 1944-45, the Germans slowly gave way until the end, while exacting heavy tolls on the Allies. But the ultimate defeat was quickened thanks to a near total air superiority and new Allied tank-hunters. The British 6-pdr gun proved lethal against the Axis war machines, and was subsequently employed by many US and British tank destroyers. The Soviets were able to field many SU-85s and SU-100s in 1943, also equipped with an adapted, former AA gun. The next generation tanks, the T-34/85, IS-1 and IS-2, also came en masse in 1944. Thus, some some real killing power was added to the numerical advantage on Soviet side.
Despite the lack of resources required to produce even the Tigers, Hitler insisted for more gargantuan models. As soon as 1943, a replacement for the Panzer VI was designed. An even more impressive heavy tank, the Tiger II or Königstiger. This nearly 70 tons monster incorporated some features from the Panther and an even more powerful and lethal gun. As the engines were still not up to the task, mobility was, once again, an issue. Plus, these new tanks were even more costly, and the Allied bombardment campaign began to take its toll. As the future in the east looked bleaker, Hitler and his generals looked west. The plan was simple and daring. All available Panzer VIs, one of Hitler’s cherished “Wunderwaffe”, were supposed to be gathered in a single Panzer division, the spearhead of a new unstoppable force. The objective was to pierce the weakest point of the US sector defensive line, in the Ardennes, in Belgium, and once again achieve the 1940 masterstroke, a rush to the sea, ultimately cutting off the supplies of the Allied forces. The ultimate goal was, in Hitler’s mind, to negotiate, in favorable terms, a separate peace with the western powers, and to concentrate all efforts on the Eastern front.
The Panzer VII was named the “Löwe”, a 76-90 ton heavy tank, of which none were built. The project was cancelled. Another Hitler “Wunderwaffe” was a super-heavy tank named at first “Mammuth”, but then, by derision, “Maus”. Weighing close to 200 tons, powered by a gargantuan diesel and sporting a monstrous 128 mm (5 in) gun, this was the ultimate Wagnerian war machine. However, with long-lasting trials, relatively weak performance, and many problems to cope with, like huge consumption, slow speed, weak maneuvering capabilities and ultra-high cost, the entire project was cancelled in 1944. Other even more impressive giants never hopped of the drawing board, like the P1000 “Ratte”, also known as the “Landkreuzer”. This gigantic “land cruiser” was, on paper, propelled by two U-Boat diesel engines, and armed with a naval battleship turret, firing two 280 mm (11 in) guns, with a 128 mm turret and quite an impressive array of AA artillery. It was a late rebirth of the very early tank concepts of tanks, inspired by H.G. Wells’ novel.
Another project was the E 100, supposedly a lighter and faster version of the “Maus”, but, weighin 140 tons, it was still unrealistic in 1944. A single prototype was captured by the British before reaching completion. But the all-category champion was the P-1500 “Monster”, a 1500 ton gun carriage fielding no less than the Schwerer Gustav, able to fire a 800 mm (31.5 in) shell at 39 km. A big waste of resources was used to forge the superhuman, oversized tracks (more or less similar to those used later by NASA Saturn V pod carrier), which were all that remained of it.