The improved Raketenpanzerbüchse 54 with blast shield.
|Type||Anti-tank rocket launcher|
|Place of origin||Nazi Germany|
|In service||1943–1945 (Nazi Germany)|
|Used by|| Nazi Germany
Kingdom of Hungary
Italian Social Republic
|Wars||World War II|
|Weight||11 kilograms (24 lb) empty (RPzB 54)|
|Length||164 centimetres (65 in)|
|Muzzle velocity||110m/s (360 ft/s, 246 mph)|
|Effective firing range||150 m (RPzB 54)|
Panzerschreck (lit. "tank fright", "tank's fright" or "tank's bane") was the popular name for the Raketenpanzerbüchse (abbreviated to RPzB), an 88 mm calibre reusable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by Nazi Germany in World War II. Another popular nickname was Ofenrohr ("stove pipe"). 
The Panzerschreck was designed as a lightweight infantry anti-tank weapon. The weapon was shoulder-launched and fired a fin-stabilized rocket with a shaped-charge warhead. It was made in smaller numbers than the Panzerfaust, which was a disposable recoilless rifle firing an anti-tank warhead. It was an enlarged copy of the American bazooka.
The Panzerschreck was developed as a copy from captured bazookas of American origin. They were either captured in 1942 on the Eastern front from Soviet forces that had received a shipment of bazookas or they were captured in Tunisia from American forces in February 1943. The American bazookas also spurred the development of the Faustpatrone and successor Panzerfaust anti-tank grenade launchers that each also used a HEAT warhead. The Panzerschreck was larger and heavier than its American counterpart (the Panzerschreck had an 88 mm calibre compared to the 60 mm calibre of the bazooka). This meant that it could penetrate thicker armor, but it also produced more smoke when firing.
The first model was the RPzB 43 which was 164 centimetres (5.38 ft) long and weighed about 9.25 kilograms (20.4 lb) when empty. Operators of the RPzB 43 had to wear a protective poncho and a gas mask without a filter to protect them from the heat of the backblast when the weapon was fired. In October 1943, it was succeeded by the RPzB 54 which was fitted with a blast shield to protect the operator and was heavier weighing 11 kilograms (24 lb) empty. This was followed by the RPzB 54/1 with an improved rocket, shorter barrel and a range increased to about 180 meters.
Firing the RPzB generated a lot of smoke both in front and behind the weapon. Because of the weapon's tube and the smoke, the German troops nicknamed it the Ofenrohr ("Stove Pipe"). This also meant that Panzerschreck teams were revealed once they fired, making them targets and, therefore, required them to shift positions after firing. This type of system also made it problematic to fire the weapon from inside closed spaces (such as bunkers or houses), filling the room with toxic smoke and revealing the firing location immediately.
The Panzerschreck could penetrate 100 mm of armor using early war rockets, and 160 mm of armor with rockets developed later in the war, for which the blast shield of the RPzB 54 was necessary. Late war German tactical doctrine called for Panzerschreck and/or Panzerfaust teams to set up in staggered trenches no further than 115 metres apart. In this way attacking armor would face anti-tank fire from multiple directions at a distance of no more than 69 metres. Anti-tank teams were instructed to aim for the thinner side or rear armor whenever possible. Allied armored units frequently attempted to add improvised protection to their tanks, e.g. sandbags, spare track units, logs and so on to protect against HEAT rounds. Most of this makeshift protection had little effect, and overtaxed the vehicle's engine, transmission, and suspension systems. Another defense was to rig metal mesh and netting around the tank, resembling the German Schürzen auxiliary plates.
The Panzerschreck's combat success caused the Bazooka to be completely redesigned at the close of World War II. A larger, 90 mm (3.5 in) model was adopted; hence, the M20 Super Bazooka. Though bearing a superficial resemblance to the Panzerschreck, the M20 had greater effective range, penetrating capability and was nearly 20% lighter than its former counterpart.
Germany provided the Panzerschreck to Finland in 1944, and it was used to great effect against Soviet armour. The Finnish name for the weapon was Panssarinkauhu (literal translation of the German name). An all-new Finnish weapon, 55 S 55 was developed after the war along the lines of Panzerschreck.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Panzerschreck.|
- Rada, Tibor (2001). A Magyar Királyi Honvéd Ludovika Akadémia és a Testvérintézetek Összefoglalt Története (1830-1945) (in Hungarian) II. Budapest: Gálos Nyomdász Kft. p. 1114. ISBN 963-85764-3-X.
- Bishop, Chris (1998). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. New York: Orbis Publiishing Ltd. p. 206. ISBN 0-7607-1022-8..
- Zaloga, Steve Armored Thunderbolt: The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II Stackpole Books, (2008) pp.90-93
- Fleischer, Wolfgang. Panzerfaust: And Other German Infantry Anti-Tank Weapons. Schiffer Pub Limited, 1994, ISBN 9780887406720, p. 39
- Hogg, Ian V. (1977). The Encyclopedia of Infantry Weapons of World War II. Bison Books. p. 155. ISBN 0-86124-155-X.
- Bull, Stephen World War II Infantry Tactics: Company and Battalion Osprey Publishing (2005), pp. 45-46
- Bishop, Chris (1998). The Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War II. Orbis Publishing Ltd. p. 206. ISBN 1-58663-762-2.
- Cooper, Belton Y. (1998). Death Traps. p. 229.