Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sturmpanzer IV (Sd Kfz 166)

History: The Sturmpanzer was developed by Alkett, who designed the superstructure, and Krupp, who altered the design of their Pz Kpfw IV chassis. On 20 October 1942, after seeing Alkett's plans, Hitler demanded that forty to sixty Brummbar be built as soon as possible. On 7 February 1943, it was decided that the forty must be completed by 12 May 1943, with a following production run of twenty. After this initial run from April to May 1943, the production of a long-term series went ahead in November 1943 and continued until the end of the war.

Specific features: The Brummbar had a box-like superstructure, housing the 15cm StuH43, mounted on a normal Pz Kpfw IV chassis. The first series was mounted on fifty-two new Pz Kpfw IV Ausf G chassis plus eight rebuilt Ausf E and F chassis. Instead of the 80mm armour on the hull front, the first sixty had a 50mm armour plate bolted to the basic 50mm hull front. This first series had a sliding-shutter visor for the driver, similar to that mounted on the Tiger I. In the later series, the driver was provided with a periscope and an StuH431 was fitted. The final series, produced from June 1944, had a redesigned superstructure with a ball-mounted machine-gun in the top right-hand ture with a ball-mounted machine-gun in the top right-hand corner of the front plate, and a cupola for the commander.

Combat service: Sturmpanzerabteilung 216 was issued with the first Brummbar, and was rushed off to the Eastern front for the summer offensive at Kursk. This unit was also active in defensive battles near Zaparozhye up to October 1943. Three additional Sturmpanzer detachments (217, 218 and 219) were formed during the war, and fought on the major eastern and western fronts, and also in Italy.

Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.E Tauchpanzer with Betriebsstoffanhanger

The Tauchpanzer was an attempt to make a tank capable of being submersed, for example to take part in beach landings or cross rivers. A number of Panzer III's and Panzer IV Ausf.D's were converted to participate in operation Sealion, but of course were never used. The Panzer IV Tauchpanzer's did however see use in various river crossings on the Eastern front. A small number of Panzer IV Ausf.E were converted in this way.

Einheitsfahrgestell (Standard Vehicle Chassis) III/IV

Panzer IV projekt W 1466

Panzer III/IV Einheitsfahrgestell

There were two attempts at developing a Panzer IV with sloped armour:

1. A Krupp project from late 1942/early 1943 (probably the one mentioned) which was basically a Panzer IV with sloped armour.

2. An early 1944 Panzer III/IV Einheitsfahrgestell project, which combined automotive parts of the Panzer III into a Panzer IV with improved running gear (6 larger roadwheels on each side).

The Vorläufige Richtwertprogramm (provisional optimum value programme) IV of 14th July 1944 postulated the multiple use of the Pz Kw III/IV chassis. It was intended, after certain alterations, to adopt this chassis as a standard vehicle chassis. DEW produced a superstructure during September 1944 for the leichte Panzerjäger (light anti-tank vehicle) III/IV and delivered it to MIAG in Brunswick. It was never assembled however as the project had already been abandoned by the Army Weapons Department. In the above programme this vehicle appears as the 7.5 cm Sturmgeschütz III/IV L/70. AIkett and MIAG planned to start mass production during November 1944, Krupp-Gruson in January, Nibelungen in February and Vomag in March 1945. The output per month was expected to be 800 vehicles as from May 1945. AIkett proposed using the same chassis for the 10.5 cm Sturmhaubltze III/IV when production of the 10.5 cm Sturmhaubitze 42 was stopped after April 1945. The anticipated monthly output was 125 vehicles, Stahlindustrie contracted to supply Artillery SP carriages on this chassis to the Army authorities. A "schwere Panzerhaubitze" (heavy tank howitzer) with an accompanying carrier was planned. The monthly output was to be 25 and four vehicles respectively. In addition a "leichte Panzerhaubitze" (light tank howitzer) and munition carrier for this vehicle were planned. Total production figures for this were 45 and six vehicles respectively per month. As well as these the programme provided for a Sturmpanzer III/IV to be produced, from January 1945 onwards. Twenty of these vehicles per month were to be constructed. The final version was the Flakpanzer "Kugelblitz" (Fireball) III/IV, of which 30 machines were expected to be completed each month.

To sum up it can be said that the Pz Kw IV formed the backbone of the German Tank Arm until the end of the war. At the beginning of 1943 there was a General Staff proposal to halt the production of all Pz Kw IVs. The proposal was not however carried out as the Panther was not yet ready and the output would have been reduced to 25 Tigers a month. Despite the obvious weaknesses in shape and armour thickness and despite the technical defects resulting from shortages of raw materials, the Pz Kw IV was the most reliable of the German AFVs and was, particularly after 1943, when better armament was available, the equal of nearly all enemy tanks.