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The Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer was a self-propelled gun that was used by Germany during World War II.

Description

It had a crew of four and a gasoline powered Praga AC/2 engine that was capable of propelling the Hetzer at speeds of up to 42 km/h.[1] The Hetzer also had an armament that consisted of a single 75 mm PaK 39 and either an MG 34 or MG 42. It could carry forty rounds of 75 mm ammunition and about 1,200 rounds of machine gun ammunition. The machine gun was also remote controlled, but one crew member would have to become exposed and reload it when needed.

The Hetzer was about 6.3 meters long and weighed approximately 15,570 kg.[2] The armor protection of the Hetzer was 60 mm thick almost every area of the vehicle, except the sides where it was 20 mm thick and the chassis itself was based on the Panzer 38(t), a Czech design. The Hetzer also had a five speed forward, 1 speed reverse transmission system and a Christie suspension system.

The Hetzer earned a reputation of reliability and simplicity when it came to repairs. However, one of its drawbacks, like many German vehicles, was that it was vulnerable to attack from the sides. Still, the low profile of the Hetzer was harder to hit, especially from distance.[3] This also allowed the Hetzer to become easily concealable for ambushes.

Variants

Bergepanzer 38(t)

The Bergepanzer 38(t), note the open top

The Hetzer had few variants and they were produced in limited numbers. The first variant is the Flammpanzer 38(t) which is fundamentally a Hetzer that was modified to have a flamethrower.

700 liters of fuel could be carried on board and the flamethrower was desguised as a regular tank gun to fool enemy troops/tanks. This variant was ordered by Hitler for the Ardennes Offensive known widely as the Battle of the Bulge.

Somewhere around fifty units where made. The next variant is the Bergepanzer 38(t) Hetzer. This variant was an armored recovery unit, but the main problem with it was that it couldn't tow the extremely heavy, late-war vehicles of the Wehrmacht, rendering it almost useless.

History

Hetzer MVTF

A Hetzer in the MVTF

The Hetzer was designed in 1943 in order to replace the older Marder series. The Hetzer was designed to be a tank destroyer and was quickly adopted by the Panzerjäger, which were the tank hunting units of the Wehrmacht. The Hetzer was meant to compensate for the successful Marder's defects such as little armor protection and the fact that the gun and most of the crew was open to infantry, air, and artillery attack.[4]

The first Hetzers arrived on the front lines in 1944 and they became very successful. Production quickly ramped up and Hetzers were produced every single month from 1944 to the very last month for the Third Reich in 1945. They soon became very common on the battlefield. Many Hetzers were sold to Hungary and after World War II, Switzerland bought many remaining Hetzers and used them in the Swiss Army up to 1970s. In total, over 1,500 were produced during World War II alone, not including variants.

References

  1. http://www.wwiivehicles.com/germany/tank-hunters/hetzer.asp
  2. http://www.achtungpanzer.com/jagdpanzer-38t-hetzer.htm
  3. http://www.militaryfactory.com/armor/detail.asp?armor_id=240
  4. Lüdeke, Alexander. Weapons of World War II. Parragon Books Ltd. (2007), Page 84


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