Hornisse/Nashorn

8.8cm PaK43/1 (L/71) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III/IV (Sf). Nashorn (Rhinoceros) — an 88-mm antitank gun mounted on the Panzerjäger III/IV, and formerly known as the Hornisse (Hornet). (The Panzerjäger III/IV is a highly modified chassis made from parts of the Pz.Kpfw. III and IV.)

Among the largest Panzerjägers produced was the Nashorn (rhinoceros). It was the sister vehicle to the Hummel, however rather than the 15 cm howitzer, it was armed with the potent 8.8 cm PaK 43 antitank gun. Like the Hummel, the Nashorn was a purpose-built chassis using Panzer III and IV components. The Nashorn was capable of engaging targets at extreme ranges, much to the detriment of its opponents. The combination of the 8.8 cm PaK 43 gun and quality Zeiss Sfl.ZF.la, Rblf36 3 x 8° monocular periscopic sight was a lethal one. Each Nashorn carried forty rounds of ammunition.

The later Nashorn had spare roadwheel racks located on the rear of the vehicle, and the barrel-style muffler of the early vehicles was eliminated. These entrained vehicles all have their foul weather tarps installed—an essential piece of equipment in an open-topped vehicle. The bands of camouflage on the interior of the rear doors are of interest. The canvas cover provided for the fighting compartment was primarily used in rear areas, or when in transit. It functioned chiefly to protect the weapon and ammunition. The large internal travel lock and its engagement wheel can be seen clearly here.

With its tall silhouette and relatively thin armor, the Nashorn was ill-suited for duels with opposing tanks and armored vehicles. However, its powerful cannon meant that the Nashorn was equipped to knock out the enemy vehicles before they closed the range enough for the German vehicle to be taken under fire.

Originally developed as a temporary measure, the Nashorn (rhinoceros), originally known as the Hornisse, or hornet, ultimately served, with considerable effect, until the end of the war.

When the German army had encountered the British Matilda, French Char B1 and then the Russian T-34 and KV-1 tanks, they found that their antitank weapons had little effect. During the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War it was learned that the high-velocity 8.8 cm FlaK gun made an excellent antitank weapon, and the German army became increasingly reliant on the 88 to counter improving Allied tanks.

Those weapons, however, were towed, and by 1942 there was a high-level demand for a self-propelled version, mounting an improved, more powerful 88.

Developed by Krupp, that weapon, the 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 (the PaK designated anti-tank cannon—Panzerabwehrkanone, vs. Flak, or Flugzeugabwehrkanone—aircraft-defense cannon) had a 71-caliber (heavy gun calibers are determined by dividing the length of the barrel by the bore) barrel and an 822 mm long cartridge case.

A self-propelled chassis, which had the same hull width as a Panzer III, was created by using the Panzer III final drive, steering unit, sprockets, and transmission, in order to match the desired hull width. Most of the rest of the chassis components were taken from the Panzer IV, including the engine, radiator, track, and suspension. However, the engine was positioned mid-hull, leaving space for a large open fighting compartment at the rear of the vehicle.

A nearly identical chassis was to be used for a 15 cm-armed self-propelled howitzer, and the dual use of the chassis was especially pleasing to Hitler.

Production of the Hornisse began in February 1943 and continued until March 1945. This was undertaken by Altmärkische Kettenwerke GmbH (Alkett) in Berlin, who produced 370 of the vehicles, and at the Deutsche-Eisenwerke AG facility in Teplitz-Schönau, who completed 124 of the machines. Alkett stopped building the Nashorn in May 1944.

In November 1943, Hitler suggested renaming the Hornisse the Nashorn, an action which was taken in July of the following year. As mentioned, the Nashorn and the Hummel share a chassis and superstructure design. However, all Nashorn hulls were produced in 1943, thus do not exhibit some of the late production changes seen in the Hummel, such as a reduction in the number of return rollers and the enlarged driver’s compartment.

History: The Hornisse (hornet) was designed in 1942, to provide an adequate self-propelled mount for the 8.8cm PaK43. In October 1942, it was decided to have 100 Hornisse built by 12 May 1943, in time for the summer offensive. The initial order was for a series of 500, of which 494 were completed.

Specific features: The 8.8cm PaK43/1 was mounted on the same Pz Kpfw III/IV chassis as the Hummel. The Pz Kpfw III/IV chassis used a lengthened Pz Kpfw IV hull as the basic design, but with the motor moved forward to a central position. It retained the basic suspension of the Pz Kpfw IV except for the spacing between components. The drive sprocket was of the type designed for the Pz Kpfw III. The open-topped fighting compartment was enclosed on all four sides by slanted armour plates bolted to the hull. The glacis plate was extended, and a small compartment for the driver was fitted to it on the left-hand side. The Hummel produced from early 1944, had a crew compartment for the driver and radio operator, extending across the full width of the hull. The 15cm sFH18/1 was mounted in the middle over the engine, and this gave the vehicle a very high silhouette. The Munitions Fahrzeuge varied from the Hummel by having a plate bolted over the front of the superstructure to close the gap normally filled by the gun and its shield, and its internal stowage was different.

Combat service: Hornissen were issued to schwere Panzerjager detachments which were independent units attached to a Korps or Armee, to provide a mobile, highly effective tank-killing force. Their first service was with the 655th schwere Panzerjagerabteilung on the Eastern Front in the summer of 1943. Five other heavy tank-hunter detachments were formed, and saw action in Italy and in the West, as well as in the East.

Nashorn Unit Allocations

The months given reflect the months in which the Nashorns were shipped from an ordnance depot. This must not necessarily mean the unit did receive them during the same month. The 5 Nashorns for 560 in 09/43 for instance were actually shipped on Sep 30. Although the allocation files do not give a date in this case, I’m pretty sure they arrived only a few days later, i.e. in October. This however is a rare case.

until 04/1943 (exact date unknown to me)

30 = s.Pz.Jag Abt 560

35 = s.Pz.Jag Abt 655

05/1943

10 = s.Pz.Jag Abt 655

15 = s.Pz.Jag Abt 560

2 = Insp.d.Pz.Tr. (Pz.Jg.Ers.Abt. 43)

1 = Insp.d.Pz.Tr. (Pz.Jg.Ers.Abt. 3)

2 = Insp.d.Pz.Tr. (Pz.Tr.Schule Wuensdorf)

3 = s.Pz.Jag Abt 525

06/1943

2 = s.Pz.Jag Abt 525

1 = Heeres-Waffenamt

15= s.Pz.Jag Abt 525

1 = Insp.d.Pz.Tr. (Pz.Jg.Ers.Abt. 43)

07/1943

25= s.Pz.Jag Abt 525

8= s.Pz.Jag Abt 655

16= s.Pz.Jag Abt 93

08/1943

20= s.Pz.Jag Abt 93

9 = Insp.d.Pz.Tr. (unspecified training units, most probably including both Pz.Jg.Ers.Abt. listed above)

09/1943

9= s.Pz.Jag Abt 93

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 560

10/1943

16= s.Pz.Jag Abt 519

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 655

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 560

11/1943

29= s.Pz.Jag Abt 519

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 655

1 = WaPrüf 8

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 560

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 93

12/1943

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 655

26= s.Pz.Jag Abt 88

01/1944

19= s.Pz.Jag Abt 88

10= s.Pz.Jag Abt 93

02/1944

4= s.Pz.Jag Abt 560

03/1944

10= s.Pz.Jag Abt 655

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 519

04/1944

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 519

05/1944

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 93

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 525

06/1944

10= s.Pz.Jag Abt 88

10= s.Pz.Jag Abt 93

5= s.Pz.Jag Abt 519

08/1944

10= s.Pz.Jag Abt 93

20= s.Pz.Jag Abt 88

09/1944

10= s.Pz.Jag Abt 88

20= s.Pz.Jag Abt 525

10/1944

10= s.Pz.Jag Abt 525

11/1944

10= s.Pz.Jag Abt 525

10 = 1./s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt. 525 (Western Front under Stab II./Pz.Rgt. 2)

12/1944

12 = 1./s.H.Pz.Jg.Abt. 93 (Western Front under Stab II./Pz.Rgt. 2)

01/1945

4= s.Pz.Jag Kp 669

02/1945

13= s.Pz.Jag Kp 669

03/1945

4= s.Pz.Jag Abt 88

Sources used: BA/MA RH 10/349 and 350 as well as Nuts & Bolts Vol. 14 ‘Nashorn’.

In case anyone wonders why the total is higher than the number of Nashorns build, this is because the allocation files show that between Feb 44 and Feb 45 at least 37 Nashorn were handed over to the Gen.Insp.d.Pz.Tr. for renewed distribution to units.

 Hornisse/Nashorn – 88 mm PaK on composite Panzer III/Panzer IV chassis

Nashorn

Specifications

Length 8.44 m

Width 2.95 m

Height 2.94 m

Weight 24 tons

Fuel capacity 600 liters

Maximum speed 40 km/hr

Range, on-road 260 km

Range, cross-country 130 km

Crew 5

Communications Fu Spr Ger f

Armament

Weapon, main 8.8 cm PaK 43/1 L/71

Traverse manual, +/-15°

Elevation manual, +20/-5°

Primary gunsight Sfl. Z. F. 1a (Selbstfahrlafetten-Zielfernrohr)

Magnification 5×

Field of view 8°

Indirect fire sight Aushilfsrichtmittel 38

Magnification 3×

Field of view 10°

Weapon, secondary

MG 34 or MG 42

Ammo stowage, main

40

Ammo stowage, secondary

600 rounds

Armor, Superstructure sides and gun shield 10 mm

Glacis 15 mm

Hull front 30 mm

Hull side 20 mm

Automotive

Engine make Maybach

Engine model HL 120 TRM

Engine configuration V-12, liquid cooled

Engine displacement 11.9 liters

Engine horsepower 265 @ 2600 rpm

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