The SdKfz 251 half-track was an armored fighting vehicle used by Germany during World War II
About this creation
Photos by Bernard Zee
The SdKfz 251 was designed and first built by the Hanomag company during World War II, and based on their earlier, unarmored SdKfz 11 vehicle. SdKfz 251s were the most widely produced German half-tracks of the war, with over 15,252 vehicles and variants produced by various manufacturers, and were commonly referred to simply as "Hanomags" by both German and Allied soldiers
There were four main model modifications (Ausführung A through D), which formed the basis for at least 22 variants. The initial idea was for a vehicle that could be used to transport a single squad of panzergrenadiers to the battlefield protected from enemy small arms fire, and with some protection from artillery fire. In addition, the standard mounting of at least one MG34 or MG42 machine gun allowed the vehicle to provide support by fire for the infantry squad once they had disembarked in battle.
Variants were produced for specialized purposes, including with anti-aircraft guns, light howitzers, anti-tank guns and mortars or even large unguided artillery rockets, as well as a version with an infrared search light used to spot potential targets for associated Panther tanks equipped with infrared detectors.
Another potentially good design feature of the SdKfz 251 was the large track area, with the characteristic "slack track" design with no return rollers for the upper run of track, and overlapping and interleaved main road wheels common to virtually all German halftracks of the period. This lowered ground pressure and provided better traction, giving the SdKfz 251 better cross country performance than most other nations' half-tracked vehicles.
The SdKfz 251/9, also known as the Schützenpanzerwagen, it was equipped with a 75 mm L/24 low velocity gun, using the same pedestal gun mount employed on the StuG III. It was nicknamed "Stummel" ("stump") by troops for its short, stumpy barrel.
In 1944, a revised modular gun mount was introduced to facilitate production that also incorporated a coaxial MG42. This gun mount was also used to create the Sd.Kfz. 250/8 variant
The 251/1 II was a mobile rocket launcher equipped with Wufrahmen 40 side-mounted frames for launching 280 mm or 320 mm Wurfkoerper rockets. It was also called "Stuka zu Fuß" or Walking Stuka.
Introduced in late 1940, the weapon system was a framework with adjustable base plates fitted over and alongside a vehicle which could hold 300 mm high explosive rockets; 280 mm HE and 320 mm incendiary rockets were also used, the rockets being fired while in their loading crates. Although spin stabilized, the rockets were not as accurate as conventional artillery and reloading took was time consuming due to the rocket's weight. Rockets were ripple-fired in large numbers where feasible to quickly saturate a target. The Wurfrahmen 40 was successful in service as a support weapon for the mobile Panzer formations, particularly in urban areas.
The SdKfz 251 Ausf D in the museum I work at
Weight - 7.81 tonnes
Length - 5.8 m
Width - 2.1 m
Height - 1.75 m
Crew - 2 + 10 passengers
Armor - 6-14.5 mm
Main armament - MG 34 or MG 42
Secondary armament - MG 34 or MG 42
Engine - Maybach HL 42 6-cylinder petrol engine
Range - 300 km
Speed - 52.5 km/h