Sd.Kfz. 3-4, 6-9, 11, 222, 231-232, 234, 247, 252-254, & 261

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Sd.Kfz. 2 (See Page) 

Sd.Kfz. 3 – Maultier

Maultier or Sd.Kfz. 3 (en: “Mule”) is the name given to series of half-track trucks used by Germans during World War II. They were based on Opel, Mercedes-Benz or Ford trucks.

Sd.Kfz 4

The SdKfz 4 Gleisketten-Lastkraftwagen (“chain-track truck”), was a 4.5-tonne military truck of Maultier (“mule”) half-track family developed during World War II by Germany. Its manufacturer designation was Mercedes-Benz L4500R.

The SdKfz 4 was developed after the 1941 invasion of the USSR to deal with the ice and mud, which bogged down the road-bound commercial vehicles that were used to supply German forces. It was modified Standard Mercedes-Benz L4500S (4×2) with Horstmann suspension instead of back axle. Another manufacturer of 4.5-t truck, Büssing planned similar conversion of its Büssing-NAG L4500S, but didn’t proceed.

A total of 22,500 Maultier halftracks were produced by 1944, among which 1480 were 4.5-t. SdKfz 4, others — 2-t. SdKfz 3. In 1943 Opel was ordered to build armored vehicles outfitted with 15 cm Panzerwerfer 42 rocket launchers.[1] These vehicles were designated SdKfz 4/1, with around 300 produced. Given the extra weight of the Panzerwerfer, the top speed was only 24 mph (40 kph).

The vast majority of Maultiers operated using British-pattern Carden-Loyd running gear, with the exception of the Type L4500R, which used PzKpfw. II running gear. The 6-cylinder engines were mated to a transmission with 5 forward / 1 reverse gears and could attain a maximum forward speed of 40 km/h. Each halftrack was equipped with the FuG Spr G f radio.

Aside from the SdKfz 4/1, the SdKfz 4 was armed only with a light 7.92 mm MG34 or MG42 machine gun with a traverse of 270° and elevation limits of -12° to +80°.

Sd.Kfz. 6

The SdKfz 6 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 6) was a half-track military vehicle used by the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War. It was designed to be used as the main towing vehicle for the 10.5 cm leFH 18 howitzer.


Sd.Kfz. 7

The Sd.Kfz. 7 was a half-track military vehicle used by the German Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS during the Second World War. (Sd.Kfz. is an abbreviation of the German word Sonderkraftfahrzeug, “special purpose vehicle”. A longer designation is Sd.Kfz. 7 mittlerer Zugkraftwagen 8t, “medium towing motor vehicle 8t”.)

Development of the Sd.Kfz. 7 can be traced back to a 1934 Wehrmacht requirement for an eight-tonne (7.87 tons) half-track. Various trial vehicles were built by Krauss-Maffei from 1934 to 1938. The production vehicle first appeared in 1938 and was intended to be used mainly as the tractor for the 8.8 cm FlaK gun and the 15 cm sFH 18 150 mm howitzer. Production was stopped in 1944. The vehicle was made by Krauss-Maffei in Munich, the Sauserwerke in Vienna and the Borgward works at Bremen. Because of its heavy power, it often found use as a recovery vehicle.

The vehicle could carry gun crews of up to 12 men in theatre-type seats. Under the seats was storage room for various tools, and the whole vehicle was spacious enough to carry their kit. The rear of the vehicle housed an enclosed compartment for storage of ammunition, though a second ammunition carrier was desirable. The tractor could tow loads up to 8,000 kg (17,600 lb) in weight. Most were fitted with a winch that could pull up to 3450 kg. It had a payload of 1800 kg. The windscreen was able to fold down and a canvas roof could be erected. A number were also constructed with a hard top, but this was less common in service. A later simplified type appeared with a timber frame truck-type layout, the ammunition being stored behind the driver’s station and the gun crew having space on wooden benches behind.

The running gear consisted of two front wheels with hydro-pneumatic tires for steering and a track each side with 14 road wheels (7 overlapping on each side of the vehicle); a drive sprocket was located at the front of each track system. Minor variations on the track and road wheel design and manufacture took place throughout the course of service, some being combined in the field as repairs took place. In 1943, the Maybach HL 62 engine was replaced with Maybach HL 64.

The use of half-tracked prime movers for artillery was common in the German forces but not elsewhere. Compared to wheeled vehicles, half-tracks are more difficult to maintain, they often suffer track breakages, and are slower on roads. However, they have better off-road mobility compared to wheeled vehicles.

The iconic Sd.Kfz.7 was used throughout the war. Sd.Kfz. 7 were seen during the 1940 Paris victory parade and the Sd.Kfz. 7 features in much German wartime propaganda footage, contributing to the myth of the mechanized Blitzkrieg. In fact, while produced in large numbers, there were never enough to fully equip the German forces. Typically like many other types, the artillery elements of Panzer and mechanized infantry units (Panzergrenadier) received them, while other units continued to rely on horses to draw their guns.

The Sd.Kfz. 7 also became the basis of a number of self-propelled anti-aircraft variants based on 20 mm and 37 mm flak types in use. The Sd.Kfz. 7/1 was armed with 2 cm Flakvierling 38 quadruple anti-aircraft guns. The Sd.Kfz. 7/2 was armed with a single 3.7 cm FlaK 36 anti-aircraft gun. On many of these variants, the driver’s position and the engine cover was armored (8 mm thickness). There were also conversions made mounting a single 2 cm anti-aircraft gun. Trial vehicles mounting a 5 cm FlaK 41 were produced but proved unsuccessful, and did not enter serial production.

Sd.Kfz. 8

The Sonderkraftfahrzeug 8 (“special motorized vehicle 8”) was a German half-track that saw widespread use in World War II. Its main roles were as a prime mover for heavy towed guns such as the 21 cm Mörser 18, the 15 cm Kanone 18 and the 10.5 cm FlaK 38. Approximately 4,000 were produced between 1938 and 1945. It was used in every campaign fought by the Germans in World War II, notably the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France, the Balkans Campaign, the Eastern Front, the North African Campaign, the Battle of Normandy and the Italian Campaign.

Sd.Kfz. 9

The Sd.Kfz. 9 (also known as “Famo” ) was a German half-track that saw widespread use in World War II, and the heaviest half-track vehicle of any type built in quantity in Nazi Germany during the war years. Its main roles were as a prime mover for very heavy towed guns such as the 24 cm Kanone 3 and as a tank recovery vehicle. Approximately 2,500 were produced between 1938 and 1945.

Sd.Kfz. 10 (See Page)

Sd.Kfz. 11

The Sd.Kfz. 11 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug – special motorized vehicle) was a German half-track that saw very widespread use in World War II. Its main role was as a prime mover for medium towed guns ranging from the 3.7 cm FlaK 43 anti-aircraft gun up to the 10.5 cm leFH 18 field howitzer. It could carry eight troops in addition to towing a gun or trailer.

The basic engineering for all the German half-tracks was developed during the Weimar-era by the Reichswehr’s Military Automotive Department, but final design and testing was farmed out to commercial firms with the understanding that production would be shared with multiple companies. Borgward was chosen to develop the second smallest of the German half-tracks and built a series of prototypes between 1934 and 1937. However development was taken over in 1938 by Hanomag who designed the main production version, H kl 6.

The chassis formed the basis for the Sd.Kfz. 251 medium armored personnel carrier. Approximately 9,000 were produced between 1938 and 1945, making it one of the more numerous German tactical vehicles of the war. It participated in the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France, the Balkans Campaign and fought on both the Western Front and the Eastern Front, in North Africa and in Italy.

Schwerer Panzerspähwagen

The term Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (German: “heavy armored reconnaissance vehicle), covers the 6 and 8 wheeled armoured cars Germany used during the Second World War.

In the German Army, armoured cars were intended for the traditional cavalry missions of reconnaissance and screening. They scouted ahead and to the flank of advancing mechanized units to assess enemy location, strength and intention. Their primary role was to observe and access, rather than engage in extended fire fights, but they would engage enemy reconnaissance elements and at times attempt to capture enemy patrols.

Sd.Kfz. 222 Schwerer Panzerspähwagen

This version of the vehicle was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and a 7.92 mm MG34 machine gun. Crew increased to three by the addition of a gunner, relieving the commander of that task. Some versions included a 28 mm anti-tank cannon.

Sd.Kfz. 231 Schwerer Panzerspähwagen

The first of the German armored cars, the Sd.Kfz. 231 was based on a modified 6×4 truck chassis.[which?] The 231 was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon, and a Maschinengewehr 13 machine gun. It had a second driver in the rear so that the vehicle could be driven either forwards or backwards with relative ease. The 231 was introduced into service in 1932 and began to be replaced in 1937 when the German Army switched production to 8-wheeled armoured cars instead of 6-wheeled. Despite being replaced, they were used by Aufklärungs (“reconnaissance”) units during the Invasion of Poland, the Battle of France, and the invasion of the USSR. They were withdrawn afterwards for use in internal security and training. The crew consisted of a commander, gunner, driver, and a radio operator/rear driver.

Sd.Kfz. 232 Schwerer Panzerspähwagen

The 232 carried a Fu. Ger.11 SE 100 medium range radio and a Fu. Spr. Ger. “a” short range radio. This model was visually distinctive because of the heavy “bedstead” antenna over the body of the car. At the point where the antenna was connected to the turret a special joint was installed which supported the aerial but still allowed the turret a full 360° traverse.

Sd.Kfz. 234

The SdKfz 234 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 234, or special purpose vehicle 234) “Puma” was an eight-wheeled armoured car used by the German Army in the Second World War. It broadly resembles the SdKfz 231.

Sd.Kfz. 247

The Sd.Kfz. 247 was an armored command car used by the German Armed Forces during World War II. Before the war, ten six-wheeled models (Ausf. A) were built; this was followed during the war by 58 four-wheeled models (Ausf. B). The proper name was schwerer geländegängiger gepanzerter Personenkraftwagen (“Heavy All-Terrain Armoured Motor Vehicle”).

Sd.Kfz. 250 (See Page) 
Sd.Kfz. 251 (See Page) 

Sd.Kfz. 252

The Sd.Kfz. 252 leichte Gepanzerte Munitionskraftwagen was a light armoured ammunition carrier used by Nazi Germany during World War II as early as the Battle of France in June 1940.

Sd.Kfz. 253

SdKfz 253 leichter Gepanzerter Beobachtungskraftwagen was a German light observation vehicle that was used by artillery forward observers to accompany tank and mechanized infantry units. The vehicle belonged to the SdKfz 250 family.

The appearance was similar to the SdKfz 250, but the SdKfz 253 variant was fully enclosed. Demag/Wegman manufactured 285 vehicles between 1940-1941.

Sd.Kfz. 254

The Sdkfz 254 was a fully tracked armoured scout car employed by Wehrmacht during World War II.

From 1936, the vehicle was developed under the designation RR-7 by the Saurer company as an artillery tractor for the Austrian army. Testing was completed and in 1937, an order was placed for the tractors and they were manufactured in 1938. About 12 vehicles were made prior to Anschluss (the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938).

Manufacture of the vehicle continued after the Anschluss. Records indicate that a total of 140 units were built with the new designation RK-7 (Räder-Kettenfahrgestell), although they were named as SdKfz 254 by the Wehrmacht. The vehicle featured a wheel-cum-track layout and a diesel motor. The wheels were lowered when it was used on roads and retracted for tracked movement cross-country. A number saw service with the Afrika Korps, serving as artillery observation vehicles after being fitted with a radio and rail antenna.

Sd.Kfz. 261

– light armored radio car.


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