Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Maschinengewehrkraftwagen (Kfz 13) / Funkkraftwagen (Kfz 14)

History: The Kfz 13 and 14 were developed in 1929-1932 as reconnaissance vehicles for the developing motorized forces of the German Army.

This was a medium 4 x 2 armoured car based on the chassis of the widely-used Adler Standard 6 Kublesitzer passenger car-although it is said that some of these vehicles were built around the Adler Standard 3U chassis. It was built to a military requirement issued by the Reichsministerium / Heereswaffenamt during 1932, when the German Army required a light armoured wheeled vehicle of a type not yet in existence. Being inexpensive and easy to produce, it appeared in relatively large numbers after 1934 and was issued to cavalry regiments until the appearance of newer versions in 1937. It is believed that even as early as 1932 the car was never intended to represent the ideal reconnaissance car but was purely an expedient until funds became available for the production of a more efficient and more versatile vehicle.

During 1933 Daimler-Benz, in Berlin·Marienfelde, acted as parent firm for the vehicle; and the armoured body was the responsibility of Deutschen Edelstahl, in Hannover- Linden.

The vehicle had a front-located 3-litre, 6-cylinder, in-line engine developing 60hp at 3200rpm. A sliding pinion 4-speed gearbox drove the conventional rear axle; and the hull, of welded construction, was box-shaped. Closely resembling a sports car, the vehicle had curved mudguards. Its rigid wheel suspension was by semielliptic leaf springs, and only the front pair of wheels was steered.

With a two-man crew and machine-gun armament the vehicle's official designation was MG-Kw (Kfz. 13) Maschinengewehrkraftwagen mit Fahrgestell des mittleren Personenkraftwagen (O)-machine-gun vehicle with the chassis of the medium passenger car, commercial. With a three-man crew and radio equipment it was Fu-Kw (Kfz. 14) Funkkraftwagen mit Fahrgestell des mittleren Personenkraftwagen (O)-wireless vehicle with the chassis of the medium passenger car, commercial.

The Kfz. 13s carried no radio equipment, communication being by means of flags alone. But this was not considered much of a handicap since they were always accompanied by a Kfz. 14 with its long-range wireless telegraphy and radio-telegraphy transmitter and receiver -the aerial for which was of a frame type and could be folded down around the vehicle when not in use. Because of the bulk of its radio equipment-which had a range of about twenty miles-the Kfz. 14 mounted no armament. Both models were open-topped and protected all round by 8mm armour, their construction representing one of the earliest German attempts at welding armour plate.

Combat service: The Kfz 13 and 14 were issued to motorized Aufklarungs detachments from 1932. In 1935 they were supplemented by, and in 1938 had been fully replaced by the Sd Kfz 221 and 223, and were then relegated to the reconnaissance units of non-motorized divisions. Many were used during the campaign in Poland and several were still in service in France, but they had been withdrawn from service by 1941.

Allied/Soviet Armour versus Tiger I and II Part I

The Soviet Response
The initial Soviet response to the Tiger I was to order the restart of production of the 57mm ZiS-2 anti-tank gun. Production of this model had been halted in 1941 in favour of smaller and cheaper alternatives. The ZiS-2 which had better armour penetration than the 76mm F-34 tank gun which was then in use by most Red Army tanks, but it too proved to be all but inadequate when faced with the Tiger I.

A ZiS-2 firing APCR rounds could usually be relied upon to penetrate the Tiger's frontal armour. A small number of T-34s were fitted with a tank version of the ZiS-2, but the drawback was that as an anti-tank weapon the ZiS-2 could not fire a strong high-explosive round, thus making it an unsatisfactory tank gun. The Russians had no inhibitions about following the German lead and accordingly the 85mm 52-K anti-aircraft gun was modified for tank use. This gun was initially incorporated into the SU-85 self-propelled gun which was based on a T-34 chassis and saw action from August 1943. By the spring of 1944, the T-34/85 appeared, this up-gunned T-34 matched the SU-85's firepower, but had the additional advantage of mounting the gun with a much better HE firing capability in a revolving turret. The redundant SU-85 was replaced by the SU-100, mounting a 100mm D-10 tank gun which could penetrate 185mm of vertical armour plate at 1,000m, and was therefore able to defeat the Tiger's frontal armour at normal combat ranges.

In May 1943, the Red Army deployed the SU-152, replaced in 1944 by the ISU-152. These self-propelled guns both mounted the large, 152mm howitzer-gun. The SU-152 was intended to be a close-support gun for use against German fortifications rather than armour; but, both it and the later ISU-152 were found to be very effective against German heavy tanks, and were nicknamed Zveroboy which is commonly rendered as "beast killer" or "animal hunter". The 152mm armour-piercing shells weighed over 45 kilograms (99lb) and could penetrate a Tiger's frontal armour from 1,000 metres. Even the high-explosive rounds were powerful enough to cause significant damage to a tank. However, the size and weight of the ammunition meant both vehicles had a low rate of fire and each could carry only 20 rounds.

The Two Extremes
The Tiger I enjoyed some spectacular triumphs on the battlefield, but it also endured its fair share of ignominious setbacks. These two contrasting combat reports demonstrate the two extremes of the Tiger I experience.

On 21st April 1943, a Tiger I of the 504th German heavy tank battalion, with turret number 131, was captured after being knocked out on a hill called Djebel Djaffa in Tunisia. A round from a Churchill tank of the British 48th Royal Tank Regiment hit the Tiger's gun barrel and ricocheted into its turret ring. The round jammed the turret traverse mechanism and wounded the commander. Although the vehicle was still in a driveable condition the crew flew into a panic and bailed out. The complete tank was captured by the British. The tank was repaired and displayed in Tunisia before being sent to England for a thorough inspection.

In complete contrast to the dismal performance of Tiger 131 the Tiger I commanded by Franz Staudegger enjoyed an amazing string of successes. On 7th July 1943, this single Tiger tank commanded by SS-Oberscharf├╝hrer Franz Staudegger from the 2nd Platoon, 13th Panzer Company, 1st SS Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler engaged a group of about 50 T-34s around Psyolknee in the southern sector of the German thrust into the Soviet salient known as the Battle of Kursk. Staudegger used all his ammunition and claimed the destruction of 22 Soviet tanks, forcing the rest to retreat. For this amazing feat of arms he was understandably awarded the Knight's Cross.

Allied/Soviet Armour versus Tiger I and II Part II

The British Response
In contrast to the laissez-faire attitude of the Americans, who correctly assumed that there would never be enough Tigers in the field to present a potent threat, the more experienced British had observed the gradual increase in German AFV armour and firepower since 1940 and had anticipated the need for more powerful anti-tank guns. As a result of the lessons learned in France work on the Ordnance QF 17 pounder had begun in late 1940 and in 1942 100 early-production guns were rushed to North Africa to help counter the new Tiger threat. So great was the haste that they were sent before proper carriages had been designed and constructed, and the guns had to be mounted in the carriages designed for 25-pounder howitzers.

Hasty efforts were also made to get Cruiser tanks armed with 17 pounder guns into operation as soon as possible. The A30 Challenger was already at the prototype stage in 1942 and was pressed into service, but this tank was poorly protected, having a front hull thickness of only 64mm. It was unreliable, and was fielded in only limited numbers - only around 200 were ever built although crews liked it for its high speed. The Sherman Firefly, armed with the 17-pounder, was a notable success even though it was only intended to be a stopgap design. Fireflies were successfully used against Tigers. In one famous engagement, a single Firefly destroyed three Tigers in 12 minutes with five shots and as a result of the superior Allied product capability over 2,000 Fireflies were built during the war. Five different 17-pounder-armed British tanks and self-propelled guns saw combat during the war. These were the A30 Challenger, the A34 Comet, the Sherman Firefly, the 17-pounder SP Achilles and the 17-pounder SP Archer.