Schwerer Panzerspähwagen

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Schwerer Panzerspähwagen
SdKfz232-8rad-ardennes-france-1940.png
German Sd.Kfz 232 (8-Rad) in the Ardennes during the Battle of France (May 1940).
Type Armored car
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Specifications
Weight 8.3 tons
Length 5.9 m (19 ft 4 in)
Width 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in)
Height 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in)
Crew 4 (commander, gunner, driver, secondary driver)

Armor 8-15 mm (.31-.59 in)
Main
armament
2 cm KwK 30 L/55
Secondary
armament
7.92 mm MG34 MG
Engine 8-cyl petrol
155 hp (115.58 kW)
Suspension 6 or 8 wheels
Operational
range
300 km (186 mi)
Speed 85 km/h (53 mph)

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 assess, rather than engage in extended fire fights, but they would engage enemy reconnaissance elements and at times attempt to capture enemy patrols.

History[edit]

The heavy Panzerspähwagen was a large but very fast addition to the German mobile arsenal of the early war years. The original 6-Rad (6 wheeled) versions were based on a 6x4 truck with armoured body, but by 1937 they were being replaced by the 8-Rad versions. During the replacement, the Sd.Kfz - (Sonderkraftfahrzeug, or special purpose vehicle) numbers were carried directly over; differentiation is made by the addition of 6-Rad or 8-Rad (Ger: "6 wheel" or "8 wheel") in the vehicle name.

These vehicles first saw combat with the campaign against Poland and in the Battle of France. Later they saw use in both the USSR and North Africa. Extreme climatic conditions in both these areas proved too severe for the vehicle. In the USSR, adverse ground conditions immobilized 150 Sd.Kfz 232s during the first wet season of the campaign.[citation needed] The speed of the eight-wheeled cars made them the best scouting vehicles that Rommel had for long range reconnaissance across the wide desert territory.[1]

Armour[edit]

The Sd.Kfz. 232 had 15 mm of slightly sloped homogeneous steel armor on the front, 8 mm on the sides, and 10 mm on the back, with 6 mm and 5 mm of armour on the top and bottom respectively. This armour was designed to provide protection from small arms fire and HE fragments; it was ineffective against heavier weapons. After the French campaign, additional spaced frontal armour plate was added to provide better protection. Armor was increased up to 30 mm in the later Sdkfz. 234 series. However, it was not designed to provide protection from anti-tank weapons.

Armament[edit]

The Sd.Kfz. 232 was armed with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon. This cannon was based on the 2 cm FlaK 30 anti-aircraft gun, and was capable of firing at a rate of 280 rounds per minute.[citation needed]

The 2 cm cannon was not designed to defeat enemy tanks, and experiments were made towards replacing it with a heavier gun which resulted in the Sd Kfz. 234 Puma. The Puma's 5 cm gun could penetrate and knock out Allied armoured cars and light tanks, but this was not the vehicle's role. The role intended was for the car's armour to protect the crew from small arms fire during reconnaissance missions.

Using high explosive ammo the 20 mm autocannon was highly effective against infantry and unarmored vehicles. Great success was also achieved by replacing the regular armour-piercing explosive ammunition with an early version of APDS, but this ammunition was in chronically short supply.[citation needed]

Powerplant[edit]

Production versions of the SdKfz. 232 were fitted with a 155 hp (116 kW), eight-cylinder Büssing-NAG L8V-G petrol engine, which gave a top speed of 85 km/h (53 mph) and a range of 300 km (190 mi).[citation needed]

Crew[edit]

A crew of four was typical. The commander and gunner sat in the turret. The SdKfz232 employed an unusual dual driver arrangement, with one driver seated at each end of the vehicle. This allowed the vehicle to be driven in either direction (forward or backward) with equal ease.

Six wheelers[edit]

All 6-rad versions were produced from 1932 to 1937. The designation Sd.Kfz stands for Sonderkraftfahrzeug (special purpose vehicle).

Sd.Kfz. 231[edit]

6 Rad Sd.Kfz. 231

The first of the German armored cars, the Sd.Kfz. 231 was based on a modified 6x4 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[edit]

6 Rad Sd.Kfz. 231 in Bavaria in 1935

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. 263[edit]

A radio vehicle "Funkspähwagen" equipped with extra long-range radio equipment and an additional radio operator. To support the additional equipment, the turret was omitted, the superstructure was raised, and only a single ball-mounted machine gun was mounted.

Eight wheelers[edit]

German 8 Rad Sd.Kfz. 231
Sd.Kfz. 231 8-Rad in Italy in 1943
German Sd.Kfz. 232. Note independent steering on each of the wheels.

Sd. Kfz. 231 family[edit]

As the cross-country performance of the 6-wheeled armored cars was deemed insufficient the Heer Ordnance departmant (WaPrw 6) signed a contract with Büssing-NAG to develop an eight-wheel armored car with all-wheel-drive, all-wheel-steering and two driver positions at front and rear. Deutsche Werke in Kiel were contracted to design the armored body. The armored body looked somewhat similar to the 6-wheel predecessors. The turret in the 231/232 series was altered to a hexagonal shape for increased internal volume, it was equipped with a 2 cm KwK 30 L/55 autocannon and a coaxial 7.92 mm MG 34 machine gun.

The Sd. Kfz. 231, 232 and 263 were initially built on chassis slightly modified for their needs, from July 1942 they were built on the same Einheitsfahrgestell chassis which also had an increased armor of up to 30 mm. From September 1941 a more powerful engine was installed, providing 180 PS instead of 155 PS. From late 1940 Stand-off angled armor plates were mounted about 50 cm in front of the vehicles. This additional armor was retrofitted to older vehicles and dropped with introduction of the strengthened front armor in July 1942.[2]

Sd. Kfz. 231

This was the standard recon variant built from 1937 to 1941. From July 1941 any need for a 231 was fulfilled by producing a 232 without additional radio equipment. The official name was Schwerer Panzerspähwagen Sd. Kfz. 231 (8-rad).

Sd. Kfz. 232

The Sd. Kfz. 232 (8-Rad) was produced from 1938 to 1943, it was a 231 with additional medium range radio sets and a large frame aerial. From 1942 a small Sternantenne (star aerial) replaced the frame aerial, a modification retrofitted to older models. The official name was schwerer Panzerspähwagen (Fu) Sd. Kfz. 232 (8-rad).

Sd. Kfz. 233

Equipped with a short barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun, based on the open-topped superstructure of the Sd. Kfz. 263 (8-Rad) radio vehicle. One hundred and nine of these vehicles were built at the Büssing-NAG plant, between December 1942 and October 1943. A further 10 were converted from 263 chassis in October 1942. This variant of the Sd.Kfz. series entered service during 1942 and remained in use throughout the war. They were issued as a platoon of six vehicles in support of reconnaissance battalions. The official name was Schwerer Panzerspähwagen (7,5 cm) Sd. Kfz. 233.

Sd.Kfz. 263
8 Rad Sd.Kfz. 232 radio vehicle of SS-Division Wiking in Russia, 1941

An eight wheeler with an open-topped fixed superstructure armed with a single 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34 machine gun. A dedicated radio vehicle with the bedstead frame aerial. The official name was Panzerfunkwagen Sd. Kfz. 262 (8-rad).

Sd.Kfz. 234 family[edit]

Main article: SdKfz 234

The Sd.Kfz. 234 series were completely new designs, of a similar size and appearance to the Sd.Kfz. 231 family which they replaced. They were powered by a Tatra diesel. The most obvious external difference is the single-piece mudguards compared to the two-piece mudguards on the 232 series.

Sd. Kfz. 234/1

The Sd.Kfz. 234/1 was fitted with a 2 cm KwK 38 L/55 gun and coaxial 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr 34 or MG 42 machine gun in a rotating six-sided open-topped turret. The open top was protected from grenades by a mesh-covered frame. The second version to enter production, built from July 1944 to the end of war.

Sd. Kfz. 234/2

This version had a turret adapted from the cancelled VK1602 Leopard, mounting a 5 cm KwK 39/1 L/60, very similar to the weapon previously used on the later versions of the Panzerkampfwagen III. It weighed nearly 12 tons but was still capable of 85 km/h (53 mph). It was one of the most heavily armed armored cars available. However, engagement was strictly discouraged due to its thin armor, and also due to its intended role of reconnaissance. The armored car could be driven backwards by the radio operator in an emergency as well. Series production started in December 1943 and ended in July 1944 with production switching to 234/1 and 234/3. Many publications use the name "Puma" for this vehicle but this was neither officially used nor was it a nickname.

Sd. Kfz. 234/3

This version, like the Sd.Kfz. 233, carried the short 7.5 cm K 51 L/24 gun, in a raised open superstructure. The gun's low velocity made it armour-piercing round ineffective against most Allied tanks, but allowed the high explosive shell casing to be thinner and thus contain more explosive. The HEAT round for this weapon was, however, effective against vehicles. In December 1944 production ended in favor of the 234/4.

Sd. Kfz. 234/4

Another variant of the 8 wheeler, but mounting a 7.5 cm PaK 40 L/46 anti-tank gun in an open compartment. This variant was similar to the Marder tank destroyer series in that it was a weakly armored, open-topped anti-tank vehicle that could not engage enemy armor head to head, and it was a stop-gap measure.

Sources[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Von Luck p. 96
  2. ^ Thomas L. Jentz and Hilary Louis Doyle (2011). Panzer Tracts 13-2: Schwerer Panzerspähwagen 231-233, 263. Panzer Tracts. 

External links[edit]