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Inside the Tanks
with Richard "The Challenger" Cutland
The Hetzer
Welcome to the Deutsches Tank Museum...
...in Munster, for another...
...in the series "Inside the Tanks."
Behind me...
...as i'm sure you'll recognise....
...is the Jagdpanzer 38 (t)...
...otherwise known as "The Hetzer"...
...one of the most interesting...
...armoured vehicles of WWII.
Background
Let me try to position....
...this vehicle for you.
Following the invasion...
...of the Soviet Union in 1941...
...it quickly became obvious...
...that Germany needed more...
...and better...
...anti-tank solutions.
Both the infantry's anti-tank guns...
...and the Panzer IIIs and IVs...
...of the time...
...we unable to penetrate...
...the front armour of the USSR's...
...KV-1s and T-34s.
Even the StuG, which then...
...only had the short-barreled...
...75mm gun, wasn't up to the job.
It was also a numbers game...
...allied tank production...
...was outpacing Germany's...
...so solutions were needed...
...that were cheaper...
...and faster to build...
...which meant using existing chassis.
This resulted in the Marder series of...
...tank destroyers and, later,...
...the Nashorns...
...but while all could carry...
...powerful guns...
...they had thin armour...
...open crew compartments...
...and a high profile which made them...
...easy targets.
They could dish out the punishment...
...but they couldn't take it...
...so in late 1943, Hitler called for...
...increased production...
...of light tank destroyers...
...that could combine good speed...
...with a powerful gun...
...and better protection.
One result, was the Hetzer...
...which means "chaser".
Construction
The chassis chosen was taken...
...from the Panzer 38 (t)...
...a medium tank that was...
...originally designed and built...
...in Czechoslovakia...
...before being taken over by Germany.
The tank itself was by now...
...under-gunned and obsolete...
...but the chassis and engine...
..were reliable and strong...
...and had already been used...
...for the Marder III.
It was partly because the chassis...
...already existed, that the Hetzer...
...incredibly...
...was able to go from the...
...drawing board to production...
...in less than four months.
Design
The Hetzer was designed to be small...
...fast, and carry a big punch.
It was also designed...
...to be hard to spot...
...and even harder to hit.
Just look at how low it is!
Less than 2m high...
...with the gun very near to the top...
...of the vehicle.
It was also quite short...
...just 4.7m.
That's 2m shorter than the StuG.
But the most conspicuous feature...
...of this compact Tank Destroyer...
...is, of course...
...this very sloped front armour.
Sweeping back at 60 degrees...
...on the upper hull...
...and 40 degrees below.
Both upper and lower hull armour....
...was 60mm thick...
...welded together and interlocked...
...for additional strength.
The side armour...
...while nicely sloped at 40 degrees...
...was a different story...
...just 20 mm thick...
...which made it very vulnerable...
...to penetration from the side...
...by almost any allied tank...
...or anti-tank gun...
...and even Soviet anti-tank rifles.
Soviet PTRD 14.5mm anti-tank rifle.
Tactics for using the Hetzer, then...
...were very simple.
Find a nice ambush position...
...keeping its strong, sloped...
...frontal armour facing the enemy...
...then get the hell out of there...
...if there was any danger...
...of being out-flanked.
Gun.
The gun was one of the best...
...anti-tank guns of World War II...
...the 7.5cm PaK 39.
It was capable of punching through...
...82mm of armour at 1000m...
...and 91mm of armour at 500m.
Enough to take out most allied tanks...
...of the day, including the T-34.
Its standard anti-tank round...
...was the Panzergranate 39...
...this was composed of...
...a ballistic shield to help the shell...
..fly straight...
...behind this was a cap...
...of very hard steel to crack the..
...hardened face of the enemy armour...
...behind this, was a heavy core...
...to enlarge the hole...
...and complete penetration.
...Inside this was...
...an explosive charge to maximise...
...fragmentation of the core...
...causing maximum damage...
...inside the tank.
At the rear was the fuse and tracer...
...to help the gunner...
...see the fall of the shot.
As you can see...
...the gun was mounted...
...well to the right of the vehicle...
...which restricted its traverse...
...to the left to just 5 degrees...
...because movement...
...of the gun assembly inside...
...will be stopped...
...by the right hull wall.
To the right...
...it can traverse further...
...up to 11 degrees...
...but at a total of 16 degrees...
...this was well short of...
...the Hetzer's original specification...
...which called for 30 degrees.
So for targets outside...
...the narrow field of fire...
...especially to the left...
...the whole vehicle...
...would have to be moved.
Outside
Let's take a look...
...at some of the Hetzer's...
...other external features.
Here we've got the commander's hatch...
...and next to it the escape hatch...
...for the driver, the gunner...
...and the Loader.
Then we've got various vision devices...
...for when the whole vehicle...
...was closed up.
The commander's rear-facing periscope...
...the Gunner's periscope sight...
...the loader's periscope...
...and the driver's twin periscope.
There was also a periscope sight...
...for the machine gun.
The machine gun itself...
...was MG34 rundumfeuer machine gun...
...obviously missing.
"Rundumfeuer" meaning...
...all-round fire...
...which meant it could literally...
...be rotated through 360 degrees...
...and fired remotely...
...from inside by the loader.
This gun shield protected the loader...
...when he had to change magazines...
...or was firing from an open hatch.
From the side...
...the Hetzer's silhouette...
...is unmistakable...
...not just because of the slopes...
...front and rear...
...but because of the four...
...large diameter road wheels.
Drive went through a front sprocket...
...and the tracks were quite narrow...
...at 35cm.
Notice the schürze, or skirts...
...5mm thick steel plates...
...that added extra protection...
...to the side armour.
Engine
Like the chassis...
...the Praga engine was also...
...Czech designed and built...
...a 6 cylinder 7.8 litre petrol unit...
...driving the front sprockets...
...through a 5 speed...
...semi-automatic gear box.
The original target weight...
...for the Hetzer had been...
...13 metric tonnes...
...but it ended up at...
...16 tonnes combat weight...
...making it much slower...
...than originally planned...
...with a maximum speed of...
...40 km/h on good road...
...and just 15 km/h cross country.
Let's take a look inside.
Inside
Well I told you it was small.
There's only me...
...and the cameraman in here and it...
...already feels over-crowded.
You can now see why the gun...
...has to be placed to the right.
The Hetzer is so narrow...
...that if it had been placed...
...more conventionally...
...near the middle...
...there would have been no room...
...for the crew...
...which is why 3 of the 4 crew...
...had to sit in a row...
...to the left of the gun.
Up front was the driver.
Behind him was the gunner...
...and behind him was the loader.
The commander sat here...
...at the rear, on the right...
...directly behind the gun...
...with his hatch and periscope above.
The loader probably had...
...the most challenging job...
...since the PaK 39 gun...
...had been designed to be...
...mounted centrally...
...with the loader standing...
...to the right of it...
...but in the Hetzer...
...as we've seen...
...this wasn't possible.
So he had to reach...
...over the recoil guard...
...to feed shells into the breach...
...and arm the firing mechanism.
And while some of the Hetzer's...
...41 rounds of ammunition were...
...stowed conventionally next to him...
...some were also stowed...
...on the other side of the gun...
...forcing him again...
...to reach over to get at it.
Hard to believe that 4 guys...
...had to live and fight in here.
In Battle
Its gun could penetrate...
...the frontal armour of a T-34-85...
...at 700m, and...
...if the crew dared...
...it could knock out an IS-2 at 100m.
Thanks to its gun's limited traverse...
...the Hetzer constantly...
...had to change position...
...to engage new targets...
...which often gave away its position...
...exposing its thin side armour...
...to flanking fire.
But with good positioning...
...a company of Hetzers...
...working together...
...and getting their shots in first...
...could dish out some serious damage...
...to attacking enemy armour.
Because it was deployed...
...quite late in the war...
...few combat reports survive...
...but one, from the Eastern Front...
...reported a single company...
...of Hetzers...
...destroying 20 enemy tanks...
...with no losses.
Another unit...
...also from the Eastern Front...
...reported 57 enemy tanks destroyed...
...including two IS-2s...
...also with no losses.
In the right hands...
...this little tank destroyer...
...could certainly do the job.
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Inside the Tanks: The Hetzer - World of Tanks

1542 Folder Collection
謝秉霖 published on June 9, 2015
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