This series, developed and produced by Famo (Fahrzeug und Motorenbau GmbH) of Breslau, was the largest of the German semi-tracks to enter service. Production began during 1938 and ended in 1944 after the construction of some 2,500.
The 18-ton semi-track was designed primarily as a heavy tank-recovery vehicle and as a prime mover for 24-ton trailers or 21 cm howitzers. It could also be used as a troop-carrier for up to thirty men. One of its principal tractor roles was the towing of the huge 24cm K3 gun.
The most commonly encountered type was the standard recovery version (called the ‘Bull ‘), which normally had a short canvas hood fitted over the crew compartment-although a longer hood was sometimes employed. The vehicle had an open body with pressed-metal sides, a tail board, a wooden floor, and two rows of seats. A 40-ton winch was fitted. A tool compartment was located beneath the driver’s seat and there were two others immediately behind it, accessible through doors at each side of the vehicle. The centre section was in the form of an open box, and it held pulleys, chains and spare cables. The remainder of the body provided stowage space. It was designated Panzerbergegerat 18t.
There was also a bridging vehicle, capable of carrying fifteen men, which towed an equipment trailer; and there were two recovery versions fitted with cranes. The first crane version was the Sd.Kfz.9/ 1, which had a flat deck with a 6-ton crane that could rotate through 180’. The crane was manufactured by Bilstein of Altenvōrde. The crew had folding seats behind the driver’s compartment and a large toolbox was attached at the rear. An order for conversion of these vehicles was issued during April 1940.
The second version, with a 10-ton electric crane, was designated Sd.Kfz.9/2. This vehicle weighed 27 tons and was intended for lifting tanks. In the travelling position, the telescopic sections of the jib were stowed and protected by canvas covers against damage. A counterweight was provided to compensate for heavy loads, and levelling jacks were normally carried in a trailer with other equipment. These were, when in use, located in special square sections. The operator was seated at the base of the jib and controlled the crane by means of hand and foot levers. About forty of these vehicles were built and mainly used on the Eastern Front. With the occupation of France, the firm of Dietrich Lorraine, at Luneville, undertook manufacture of the 18-ton half-track. Panhard-Leassor also received orders to manufacture this vehicle and had actually received one manufactured by Borvag of Brennan from the Germans to use as a prototype. The original order was placed with Panhard in March 1942, but no complete vehicles had in fact been delivered up to VE day.
Chronological development was as follows:
1936 FM gr 1 was the first model built by Famo and it served as the pre-production model for the series. It was powered by a Maybach HL98 TUK V-12 230hp engine, had ZF constant-mesh transmission, mechanical (self-servo) steering brakes and pneumatic road brakes. The front wheels were sprung by leaf springs and the tracked section (which had six wheels per side) by torsion-bars.
1938 Famo F2 was a further prototype in the series, automotively identical to the previous model.
1939 Famo F3 was the first production model, designated Schwerer Zugkraftwagen 18t Sd.Kfz.9. It was powered by a Maybach HL108 TUKRM V-12 engine developing 250hp, and provided with a new clutch. Otherwise, it was automotively similar to the previous model. It remained in production until 1943.
1939 Famo F4 was the projected design as further proposed development of the 18-ton vehicle. It was to have had the new Maybach HL116 6-cylinder engine developing 260 hp. Otherwise it was to have beer similar to the previous model.
Production of the Sd.Kfz.9 was as follows:
1940 – 240
1941 – 240
1942 – 384
1943 – 643
1944 – 834