Self-Propelled Tank Destroyers

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10.5 cm K gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette

The 10.5 cm K gepanzerte Selbstfahrlafette (“10.5 gun on armored self-propelled mount”) was a prototype self-propelled gun used by Nazi Germany during World War II.

Although it was originally designed as a Schartenbrecher (“bunker buster”) for use against the French Maginot Line defenses following the defeat of France it was used as a tank destroyer on the Eastern Front.

FCM 36

The FCM 36 or Char léger Modèle 1936 FCM, was a light infantry tank that was designed for the French Army prior to World War II. It had a crew of two and was equipped with a short 37 mm main armament and a 7.5 mm coaxial machine gun. Power was provided by a diesel engine.

German Use

The Germans captured 37 FCM 36s, using the administrative designation Panzerkampfwagen 737 FCM (f) for them. After some improvised use by units in May and June 1940, they were not as such employed by them. In 1943 ten were rebuilt as Marder I tank destroyers, with the 75 mm PaK 40 anti-tank gun and officially called 7.5cm PaK40(Sf) auf Geschützwagen FCM(f). These were employed by 21 Panzerdivision in the Battle of Normandy in 1944. Twelve were in 1942 rebuilt as self-propelled artillery, the 10.5 cm leFH 16/18 (Sf) auf Geschuetzwagen FCM (f).

One FCM 36 survives at the Musée des Blindés at Saumur. It has been restored to running condition.

Jagdpanzer IV

The Jagdpanzer IV, Sd.Kfz. 162, was a tank destroyer based on the Panzer IV chassis built in three main variants. As one of the casemate-style turretless Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer, literally “hunting tank”) designs, it was developed against the wishes of Heinz Guderian, the inspector general of the Panzertruppen, as a replacement for the Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III). Guderian objected against the needless, in his eyes, diversion of resources from Panzer IV tank production, as the Stug III and Sturmgeschütz IV were still more than adequate for their role.

Officially, only the L/48-armed vehicle was named Jagdpanzer IV. The L/70-armed vehicle was named Panzer IV/70. In this article, both versions are referred to in general as Jagdpanzer IV, except in the variants and surviving vehicles section.

Nashorn

Nashorn (German “rhinoceros”, pronounced [‘na:zho:ʁn]), initially known as Hornisse (German “hornet”), was a German tank destroyer of World War II. It was developed as an interim solution in 1942 by equipping a light turretless chassis with the Pak 43 heavy anti-tank gun. Though only lightly armoured and displaying a high profile, it could frontally penetrate any Allied tank at long range, and its relatively low cost and superior mobility to heavier vehicles ensured it remained in production until the war’s end.

Panzerjäger I

The Panzerjäger I (German “Tank Hunter 1”) was the first of the German tank destroyers to see service in the Second World War. It mounted a Czech Škoda 4.7 cm (1.9 in) cm PaK (t) anti-tank gun on a converted Panzer I Ausf. B chassis. It was intended to counter heavy French tanks like the Char B1 that were beyond the capabilities of the 3.7 cm PaK 36 anti-tank gun then in service and served to extend the usable lifetime of otherwise obsolete Panzer I tanks. 202 Panzer Is were converted to the Panzerjäger I in 1940 and 1941. They were employed in the Battle of France, in the North Africa Campaign and on the Eastern Front.

Panzer 35R –
4.7 cm Pak (t) (Sfl.) auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw.35 R 731 (f) 

4.7 cm Pak (t) (Sfl.) auf Fgst.Pz.Kpfw.35 R 731 (f) – German conversion of the Renault R35 light tank by mounting a boxy superstructure and the Czechoslovak 47mm gun, creating an improvised tank destroyer – 47mm Gun on Renault R35 Chassis.

As a result of the fall of France, between May and June 1940 the Germans captured some 850 Renault R35 light tanks, of which roughly 800 were pressed into German service one way or another. Most of these vehicles were equipped with the old 37mm SA18 guns and were good only for infantry support. About a hundred or so were indeed used in their original form – either for training or for police duties.

Combat-wise, the obsolete French tanks were mostly useless but there was a way to make them “useful” again – by converting them for various other roles, especially the one of self-propelled artillery. On 23.12.1940, the company Alkett received a task to create 200 self-propelled guns based on this light tank. A prototype was ready on 8.2.1941 and was approved shortly after for service and the contract was thus confirmed – of the 200 ordered vehicles, 174 were supposed to be tank destroyers and the rest were to be commander vehicles. First 93 vehicles were built in May 1941, 33 in June, 5 in July, 22 in August, 28 in September and the rest in October.

The first vehicles of this type went to the units located in France but the first combat experience came soon enough with Barbarossa. 93 vehicles (81 TD’s and 12 commander vehicles) were transferred to the 559., 561. and 611. Pz.Jg.Abt (Sfl) fighting on the eastern front in summer of 1941, in particular they were used during the fighting in Belarus. They were however used only for a few weeks, after which they were only used by the occupying forces in France and on the Jersey and Guernsey islands. On 1st of April 1942, 147 vehicles were still in active service and in the early 1944, 110 were still active. They were actively used against the Allies in Normandy but some survived and were used even later, for example during the Arnhem fighting.

The hull was not different from the original R35 tank – it was not heavily modified. The tank destroyer was only about a ton heavier than the light tank itself and thus no modifications to the hull were needed. The main armament was the 47mm Czechoslovak gun A6/A9 (PaK 36 (t) in German service), until the appearance of the 50mm PaK 38 it was the most powerful German-used early war AT gun. Interestingly enough, the Germans tried also to mount a 50mm gun on such vehicle but it never did go anywhere.

Sturer Emil

The 12.8 cm Selbstfahrlafette auf VK3001(H) “Sturer Emil” (German for “Stubborn Emil”) was an experimental World War II German self-propelled anti-tank gun. It was based on the Henschel VK3001 chassis and both armed with a Rheinmetall 12.8 cm K L/61 gun (based on the 12.8 cm FlaK 40)(although a 105mm gun was planned too). This gun could traverse 7° to each side, elevate 10° and depress -15°. It carried 15 rounds for the main gun.

The chassis was left over from Henschel’s submission for the canceled VK3001 heavy tank program, but the hull was stretched and an extra road wheel added to accommodate the large gun, which was mounted on a pedestal ahead of the engine. A large, open-topped, fighting compartment was built where the turret was intended to go in the original design.

Two vehicles (named Max and Moritz) were built, both of which served on the Eastern Front. One vehicle was destroyed, the other captured at Stalingrad in January 1943, with 22 kill marks painted on the barrel. This captured vehicle is now displayed in the collection on the Kubinka Tank Museum.

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German Military History with a focus on World War 2 History including other areas of German History