The Hornisse (hornet) was designed in 1942, to provide an adequate self-propelled mount for the 8.8cm PaK43. In October 1942, it was decided to have 100 Hornisse built by 12 May 1943, in time for the summer offensive. The initial order was for a series of 500, of which 494 were completed.
The 8.8cm PaK43/1 was mounted on the same Pz Kpfw III/IV chassis as the Hummel. The Pz Kpfw III/IV chassis used a lengthened Pz Kpfw IV hull as the basic design, but with the motor moved forward to a central position. It retained the basic suspension of the Pz Kpfw IV except for the spacing between components. The drive sprocket was of the type designed for the Pz Kpfw III. The open-topped fighting compartment was enclosed on all four sides by slanted armour plates bolted to the hull. The glacis plate was extended, and a small compartment for the driver was fitted to it on the left-hand side. The Hornisse had a crew compartment for the driver and radio operator, extending across the full width of the hull. The 8.8cm PaK43 was mounted in the middle over the engine, and this gave the vehicle a very high silhouette.
Hornissen were issued to schwere Panzerjager detachments which were independent units attached to a Korps or Armee, to provide a mobile, highly effective tank-killing force. Their first service was with the 655th schwere Panzerjagerabteilung on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1943. Five other heavy tank-hunter detachments were formed, and saw action in Italy and in the West, as well as in the East.