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Best Tank Destroyer

Discussion in 'Tank Warfare of World War 2' started by tj, May 14, 2004.

  1. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Rich: I think the acceleration was a product of the tranny, not the engine HP. Top speed, IIRC, wasn't spectacular. Still, It seems to have been liked by its crews. Used correctly, it was as lethal as any other AFV mounting that gun. Its frontal armor, small size and acceleration gave it survivability. I've even seen accounts where they bested JS2s by hitting them in the flank.
     
  2. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    Have a feeling there might now be a tiny touch of uncertainty over 'Hetzer' not ever being used in wartime. Would have to dig, but maybe one unit reference. Certainly not enough to confirm that the 38t nomenclature wasn't the correct one.
    (Or is that the 507 reference? )

    'Hetzer' had its successes, but far from ideal. It's what you build when you've drained all your resources & are considering defensive warfare. Old chassis design, despite modifications. Guns to fit, 'it'll do', 'worth a try'.
    Used to be a lovely original (non G13) with a full service history at UK shows. Not over-restored. Had 'patina.' Think it eventually went to the states.
    People cite postwar G13 as somehow proof of a useful design. The Swiss had a very specific role envisioned for their armour.
    An ambush vehicle suited them well, but the approach was not popular elsewhere as man-portable became the main sneaky game.

    I'd still cite Major Cain & ObLt Viezenz above as the most interesting variant of tank destroyers, but do have an aesthetic soft spot for the Jagdpanzer IV. Good gun, sensible commonality of parts, looks right. (Also used to be a lovely survivor about. Chatting to the owner - he paid £11k for it! Sold for... A lot. Maybe to Mr Littlefield? )

    Never really liked 'Tank Destroyer' as a term. Think it's caused a lot more confusion over the years than 'SPATG' would have done. And if it's all really about getting a good gun into play more quickly than trailed stuff, the M18 surely deserves an honourable mention.
    Maybe a bit over the top, but it's hard not to give Jagdpabther some solid points too.

    I too like Stugs, but despite their regular success in the field, I can't think of them in other than their original intended use.
    They may indeed have used a fair few when Pz. Div organisation ran short, but it was never really seen as a tank replacement. Sturmartillerie a very specific role, with tank kills a by-product, or stop-gap.

    Anyway. Rambling.
    We all know what the real tank killers were; infantry & trailed AT guns. I know that doesn't help with 'best', but it's a fact.

    I'll take an Ontos, please...
     
  3. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, but I remain skeptical regarding how a transmission produces improved acceleration when it is the same transmission in a heavier vehicle, coupled to essentially the same engine? The engines were all versions of the Praga AC (AC/2, EPA, EPA/2), running 150-160 HP and using the same 5 forward, 1 reverse gear transmission. Rated speed was exactly the same, 42 KM/hour. It was the power-to-weight ratio that was different. 15.8 HP per ton in the Panzer 38(t) versus 10.2 HP per ton in the Jagdpanzer 38(t). You cannot improve acceleration by increasing mass while keeping nearly the same power output when using the same transmission.

    Crew ergonomics and situational awareness make a huge difference...the loader had zero SA and had to deal with horrible ergonomics. The commander had no cupola and depended on single periscope only. The driver had limited vision to the front left and also a single periscope, while the gunner had limited vision to the front right and a single periscope.

    Yes, its frontal armor was wonderful...and yet in its first full month of deployment, September 1944, 136 were lost in combat, probably about half of what were deployed. At least 233 were lost by the end of November. It was an ambush weapon, once its ambush was sprung it was vulnerable. Sure it could knock out a JS2 from side or rear, but then so could any of many systems armed with the Pak/KwK/StK 40 firing late-war Pz.Gr. 39, which was probably the best designed AP projectile of the war.
     
  4. von Poop

    von Poop Waspish WW2|ORG Editor

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    It was initially planned to weigh 13 tons, but eventually came out at 16. (Well, official fighting weight 15.5-15.7)
    So when the first rolled off the line, they discovered it was very front-heavy - 10cm lower than the back.
    The recommendation was that the armour should be re-balanced, a new gearbox was needed, and springs should be uprated.
    Because of these things, it was still regarded as under testing even as service trials & wider issue began.

    The reason they pressed on, was that it used the Skoda/BMM factories' capacity efficiently, meeting the required production levels for motorised AT, not really because it was the ideal or 'best' option. It also fitted into standardisation of types & Adolf's 'war-decisive' weapon theories. Very much a fuhrer-approved-so-we-builld-it option.

    The biggest hope for improving the engine was a new cooling system from Krupp - designed but never installed.
    What the transmission did have was the Wilson semi-auto system (built under licence when under Czech control, though I'm never quite sure how such arrangements went on after hostilities were declared... business can be a strange thing), & with that 160hp mostly achieved by raising engine speed. the combination might well pay off in short range acceleration over sheer hp/ton. The widened running gear over a standard 38 might also, possibly, have given a boost to acceleration. Lightened drive shafts over the tank's engine could also, perhaps, play a part. The sort of stuff performance car people still do to eke out a bit more oomph without upping base engine HP.
    (Though... acceleration... from it's most useful emplaced ambush positioning... Does that help much? If you hope to accelerate out, then something has gone wrong, and your 'splinter proof' panels are maybe showing where not wanted.)

    The official list of defects requiring work during testing is unusually long.
    They were onto 'something' with the thing. Advanced thoughts, if arguably another evolutionary dead end, but it was a way off ever being a fully polished & truly reliable performer.
    If 'best' is to include 'produce-ability' & reliability, as it probably should, PzJgr 38t put a tad more strain on the available facilities than they could bear in wartime conditions.

    If the Sentinel Steam-powered Hetzers had proved successful, I might vote for it for sheerly perverse engineering reasons... Though envisioned as a tractor, No TD (200HP... & advanced steam can accelerate surprisingly well).
    IMG_20190309_012336126.jpg

    Back to the TD aspect, though.
    I'd like to have seen what the initially intended recoilless/fixed guns could have been like. very seriously considered, & it could conceivably have eased the cramped interior & saved more weight, though production needs & a further list of issues eventually killed it.



    My mind keeps coming back to M18.
    If you've ever seen one 'live' going at absolutely full chat, it's remarkable. Just looks wrong that any WW2 era large armoured machine can move like that (Not something videos can fully convey without that noise & vibration as it passes). And while ambush panzers are arguably a different thing to the true Tank Destroyer/SPATG ethos, the Hellcat was firmly within it for that factor alone.

    Sadly, the last time I saw one really hammering it while I had the technology to hand, I only got the camera onto video as it was slowing right down.
     
  5. Pacifist

    Pacifist Active Member

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    Video of the interior of a G-13 basically a post war Swiss version of the "Hetzer"

     
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  6. harolds

    harolds Member

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    The Hetzer was designed and produced during the war and like all such vehicles didn't go through a lengthy trial and modification period. It was cheap and easy to make and they made quite a few of them in the little over a year it was in production. Losses were heavy, but the Germans had heavy losses in all classes of AFV. The losses aren't necessarily the result of a bad vehicle. Facing an overwhelming number of enemy vehicles with crews that were of lesser quality than when the war started also had to be factors. I think we've had other discussions about having something "good enough" vs an "exceptional" something to be delivered sometime in the future.
     
  7. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Oh I agree and when you realize the reason it was built the way it was it all becomes much clearer. When Germany seized Czechoslovakia in 1938 they also acquired Skodawerk in Pilsen and the Böhmische Märische Maschinenfabrik AG in Prag. BMM was happily cranking out the 38(t) for the Czechs and the Germans were happy to have them continue, since it was all nicely self-contained in the new Protectorate...hulls and armament were cranked out by Skoda, engines, transmissions, and final assembly by BMM, so it did not require a single Reichspfennig of investment, but still was turning out a tank pretty similar to their preferred "maneuver tank" the Panzer III. So instead of investing in the Czech plant to expand and improve it, the Germans dumped what capital they had into building the Nobelungenwerk in St Valentin, Austria to produce the Panzer IV (the preferred support tank) in quantity. That had the advantage that it was close to the steelworks at Oberdonau, and the transmission and engine producers at Friederichshafen...plus, since it was all part of the Hermann Goering conglomerate, the money went to a good cause...Dicke Hermann.

    The problem with that was not seen until summer 1941, just as Nibelungenwerk was ready to turn out its first Panzer IV...the German encountered the T34 and Kv1, which overnight made the Panzer III obsolescent and the 38(t) obsolete. The eventual solution was to convert some of the Panzer III production to a new cutting-edge tank, while upgunning the Panzer IV (and StuG III) as stopgaps. The problem was, the aging plant at Skoda and BMM was such that required major expansion...enlarging the assembly halls, replacing all the overhead cranes to handle the additional size and weight, and increasing the same at the steel mills the assembled the basic hull components...but the Germans simply did not have the investment capital to do it all, so instead decided to use the existing 38(t) hull chassis as an expedient tank destroyer...the Marder III (it was also used for an expedient AA vehicle, and expedient recon vehicle, and expedient etcetera). Eventually though, its perceived limitations - light armor and no roof for the crew compartment, led to the development of the Jagdpanzer 38(t), which was a compromise to get an enclosed crew compartment with a 75mm gun on the basic 38(t) chassis. It worked, but barely, and remained an expedient...cheap in every sense of the word, since it never required major additional investment into the Skoda and BMM plant. It allowed them to instead build ~3.008 useful vehicles in 14 months (about 215 per month) in facilities that otherwise had little real use.
     
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  8. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    If this is against the rules please delete but happened upon it on FB. Scroll down just a bit and find a wondful video of a Hetzer rebuild.

    The men and machines of World War 2
     
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  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    My understanding was also that some of the German factories simply couldn't produce the larger tanks. If all you can make in a factory are Pz III chassis then in mid to late war Stugs based on them would be a better usage of resources than Pz IIIs.

    I could be wrong about this though.
     
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  10. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    As a couple of people have mentioned, that was why the Czech factories continued producing the 38t chassis. In the case of the StuG III, they seem to have considered that there was a specific need for StuG; for example, every line infantry division was supposed to have a battalion of them. We might recall that when the Alkett plant building StuG IIIs was bombed, they started building StuG on Panzer IV chassis at other factories.

    In 1942-43 about half of Panzer III production was switched to building Panthers, the rest to StuG IIIs, which had previously been about 20% of Pz III chassis.
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2019
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  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Since we're on the topic, I'll resurrect one of my favorite speculations:

    Around 1935 the German army identified a need for an assault gun to support the infantry. At that point the best available platform was the Panzer III, and several prototypes were produced in 1937. Panzer III production got underway very slowly - only 98 of them had been produced by the outbreak of war in 1939 - and they did not start building assault guns on the Panzer III line until early 1940; the first 30 were available for the French campaign. StuG comprised about 1/5 of Panzer III production 1940-41.

    Meanwhile of course Germany had occupied Czechoslovakia and taken over that nation's extensive arms industry. The CKD plant had just begun building the LT vz 38 tank, which the Germans adopted as the Panzer 38(t) and kept in production. It was used in lieu of Panzer IIIs although it was not considered to be as effective.

    The Germans were thus in the odd position of producing inferior tanks for the panzer divisions while devoting a share of Panzer III production to assault guns for the infantry. As noted the Czech plant was building tanks under German control before the Panzer III line started producing operational StuG. I wonder if anyone thought of making the 38(t) the assault gun platform? It would not seem difficult to adopt an upper hull structure similar to that already designed. The hull and tracks had to be widened a bit for the Hetzer, with its sloped armor and 75mmL48 gun - would this be necessary for a 75mmL24 assault gun? Even if it was it would not seem a major issue.

    The infantry should be able to get their StuG no later than they did, possibly earlier and, based on 38(t) production figures, in greater numbers. While the 38(t) was distinctly inferior as a tank, there would not be much qualitative difference as an assault gun.

    The panzer force would benefit by having more of the tank they really wanted, the Panzer III, and by standardizing logistics and maintenance. There would actually be a temporary decline in total numbers of tanks since more Pz38(t)s were produced (1940-41) than StuGIIIs, but the qualitative improvement should offset this. The long-term goal was to phase out all the stopgaps, PzI, II, 35(t), and 38(t).
     
  12. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Not exactly. The StuG concept was an armored, self-propelled accompanying gun for the Infanterie, proposed by Mansten. It was eagerly taken up by the Artillerie, since it gave that branch an in to the highly lucrative armored vehicle contracting business. Originally the concept were separate batteries subordinated to a battalion staff assigned to the infantry corps as needed for operations...the batteries would then be farmed out to the corps divisions. They were considered successful enough in the French campaign that in October 1940 permanent three-company battalions were established as the arm expanded, but still assigned to the corps for operations and then attached to divisions. It wasn't until November 1943 that the organic StuG "Abteilung" (actually a company) was proposed for the Infanterie-Division neuer Art (new style) and deployment began in the spring. That is also when the JpPz 38(t) was proposed as the armament for the Infanterie-Division StuG "Abteilungen" and they began forming as production started in July 1944.

    When the Alkett Werk I building at Berlin-Borsigwalde was bounded in November 1943, they converted an idle locomotive factory in Berlin-Falkensee as a final assembly plant (the incomplete hulls were hauled by horse teams from the one to the other plant :D). At the time, MIAG was also producing StuG III, converting from producing Pz III in March 1943 and then in August they began producing Jagdpanther as well. However, by that time the StuG was so important it was decided to also convert production at Krupp's Grusonwerke to producing StuG IV in December 1943. Vomag, which was also producing Pz IV, also converted, but to building Jagdpanzer IV and Pz IV/70, for the Panzerjaeger.

    Its...complicated. :D I think it is sometimes forgotten that the German production planning was initially guided by the Polish and French experience. In October 1941, when future plans coalesced, the intended ratio of tanks in the Paanzer Division was three Pz III for each Pz IV. At that time, the production pool consisted of:

    Panzer III
    Daimler-Benz Berlin-Marienfeld (prime contractor)
    MAN
    MIAG
    Henschel (averaging about 22 per month)
    MNH
    Production in October 1940 was 100. Average monthly production October 1940-October 1941 was 121.

    Panzer IV
    Krupp Grusonwerke
    Production in October 1940 was 30. Average monthly production October 1940-October 1941 was 33. The plan was that Nibelungenwerk would start production in the fall of 1941, which would free up Krupp for other work.

    StuG III
    Alkett
    Production in October 1940 was 35. Average monthly production October 1940-October 1941 was 39.

    BARBAROSSA changed all that. Overnight the Panzer III was made obsolescent. The StuG became critical for defending the infantry against the large numbers of Soviet tanks encountered. The solution was the Panther, but that required a stopgap, which was the Panzer IV (l) and meant that converting all Panzer IV production to Panther was impractical in the short run.

    Here is the picture for October 1941-October 1942:

    Panzer III
    Daimler-Benz Berlin-Marienfeld (moving to Panther secondary contractor, began production in February 1943)
    MAN (moving to Panther prime contractor, began production in January 1943)
    MIAG (averaging 48.6 per month)
    Henschel (averaging 45 per month, but shifting to Tiger I production, although they produced 130 Panther and 70 Bergepanther March-November 1943, before shifting to Tiger II)
    MNH (moving to Panther secondary contractor, began production in March 1943)
    Production in October 1941 was 164. Average monthly production October 1941-October 1942 was 213.

    Panzer IV
    Krupp Grusonwerke (averaging 44 per month)
    Vomag (averaging 14 per month, began production in August 1941)
    Nibelungenwerk (averaging 7.4 per month, began production in November 1941)
    Production in October 1941 was 51. Average monthly production October 1941-October 1942 was 66.

    StuG III
    Alkett
    Production in October 1941 was 71. Average monthly production October 1941-October 1942 was 54.6.
     
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  13. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Okay, October 1942 to October 1943

    Panzer III
    The last new-built Panzer III were completed in August 1943 by MIAG
    Production in October 1942 was 217. Average monthly production October 1942-October 1943 was 57.6.

    Panzer IV
    Krupp Grusonwerke (average monthly production October 1942-October 1943 was 67)
    Vomag (average monthly production October 1942-October 1943 was 56.25)
    Nibelungenwerk (average monthly production October 1942-October 1943 was 81.75)
    Production in October 1942 was 99. Average monthly production October 1942-October 1943 was 205.

    Panther
    Daimler-Benz Berlin-Marienfeld (average monthly production October 1942-Ocotber 1943 was 25)
    MAN (average monthly production October 1942-October 1943 was 25)
    Henschel (average monthly production, including Bergepanther, October 1942-October 1943 was 14.7)
    MNH (average monthly production, including Bergepanther, October 1942-October 1943 was 23.75)
    Production in October 1942 was 0. Average monthly production October 1942-October 1943 was 88.6.

    StuG III
    Alkett (average monthly production October 1942-October 1943 was 139.7)
    MIAG began StuG III production in February 1943. Average production October 1942-October 1943 was 97.5.
     
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  14. Austin Fontenot

    Austin Fontenot New Member

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  15. Austin Fontenot

    Austin Fontenot New Member

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    I have a question about a 57mm projectile. I have one that I have sold on Ebay & now the buyer doesn't want to pay till I prove it isn't a live round. I got it at a local flea market, it was with some other stuff like a TM9-730 Manual for a 78MM Tank Gun T-41E1, from June 1957. You can tell by the rifling marks that this projectile has been fired. It has a solid pointed top & a hole, about 1/2" in diameter in the bottom. here is about a 1/2" recess then filled with dirt or something. I took it to the X Chief of Police here & he thought if it was an armed round, that it would have a screw cap on the end, for loading the munitions & setting the fuse. Can someone help me figure out if it could even be live after all these years? I figure some soldier wanted a souvenir or paperweight. Vntg WW1? ARTILLERY SHELL Military Projectile Bullet Copper 10mm | eBay Here is the listing with pics. Any info will be appreciated.
     

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