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Mittlere Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251)

Description

To allow infantry to accompany tanks deep behind enemy lines, Germany realised the necessity of mechanized infantry before the war. While commercial and military trucks were readily available, they were not able to follow tanks cross-country. As fully-tracked armored personnel carriers were beyond Germany's industrial capacity, the half-track was chosen as a compromise.

Germany already used half-tracks, as did other countries, and it was natural to use an existing frame for the new design. The final vehicle, the Mittlere Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251), was based on Hanomag's Sd Kfz 11 half-tracked tractor. A similar, but smaller, reconnaissance half-track, the Leichter Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 250), was based on the Sd Kfz 10.

Production started in 1939. Throughout the war, the basic design was improved. In addition, 23 different variants were designed, to fill a large number of support roles:

Sd Kfz 251/1
Standard armored personnel carrier.
Sd Kfz 251/2
Equipped with the 8 cm Gr W 34 81 mm mortar.
Sd Kfz 251/3
Radio vehicle.
Sd Kfz 251/4
Artillery tractor for the 7,5 cm le I G 18 75 mm howitzer. Was also used to tow anti-tank guns.
Sd Kfz 251/5
Engineer radio vehicle.
Sd Kfz 251/6
Command vehicle, with radios and Enigma encryption/descryption machine.
Sd Kfz 251/7
Engineer vehicle, carrying a small bridge on its top. Early variants also had the 7.92 mm Panzerbüchse anti-tank rifle.
Sd Kfz 251/8
Ambulance vehicle.
Sd Kfz 251/9
Equipped with the 7,5 cm Kw K 37 (L/24) 75 mm tank gun of the early Pz Kpfw IV.
Sd Kfz 251/10
Platoon leader vehicle, armed with a 3,7 cm Pak 36 37 mm anti-tank gun.
Sd Kfz 251/11
Telephone exchange and cable laying vehicle.
Sd Kfz 251/12, Sd Kfz 251/13, Sd Kfz 251/14, and Sd Kfz 251/15
Produced in limited numbers. Designed to detect enemy artillery locations.
Sd Kfz 251/16
Flamethrower vehicle.
Sd Kfz 251/17
Equipped with the 2 cm Flak 38 20 mm anti-aircraft gun.
Sd Kfz 251/18
Artillery observation vehicle.
Sd Kfz 251/19
Telephone exchange vehicle.
Sd Kfz 251/20
Infrared searchlight, to be used with units equipped with Panther's and StG 44's with infrared equipment.
Sd Kfz 251/21
Equipped with tripple MG 151 15 og 20 mm anti-aircraft guns.
Sd Kfz 251/22
Equipped with a 7,5 cm Pak 40 anti-tank gun.
Sd Kfz 251/23
Reconnaissance vehicle, armed with a 2 cm Kw K 38 tank gun.

A total of about 15 250 Sd Kfz 251's were built, and they served on all fronts throughout the war. After the war, Czechoslovakia built a copy, the OT-810.

Technical Details

Mittlere Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251)
Crew
Crew
  • Driver
  • Radio operator
  • Passengers (10)
Physical Characteristics
Weight 7.81 t
Length 5.8 m
Width 2.1 m
Height 1.75 m
Armour
Armour (range) 6-14.5 mm
Performance
Speed (max) 52.5 km/h
Engine
Engine Maybach HL 42 TRKM
Net h.p. 100
Cylinders 6
Displacement 4200 cc
Armament
Primary weapon 7,92 mm MG 34 (2)

Images

Mittlere Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251/1), equipped with frames for mounting disposable high-explosive rockets ("Stuka zu Fuß").
Two Mittlere Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251/1), seen from the rear.
Mittlere Schützenpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251/1) driving through a village.
On rail carts.
Ausf. D, showing its distinctive, one-piece, inwards-sloping rear armour.
Mittlere Pionierpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251/7), with bridging equipment.
Mittlere Pionierpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251/7) seen from the front.
Mittlere Flammpanzerwagen (Sd Kfz 251/16), mounting a flamethrower.

Further Reading

Sources

  1. CULVER, Bruge & FEIST, Uwe Schützenpanzer. Bellingham, WA : Ryton Publications, 2001. 229 p. ISBN: 1930571291.