In March 1943, Col. Gen. Heinz Guderian demanded
a light tank destroyer to replace all existing Marders
and towed anti-tank artillery 75mm PaK 40 guns. The result of this
was the Panzerjägerprogram or G-13. The new vehicle resulting from
it was to equip tank destroyer units of infantry divisions. The Panzerkampfwagen
38(t) chassis was chosen as a base for this new Panzerjäger. It was
first known as "Leichtes Sturmgeschutz 38(t)", then "Jagdpanzer 38(t)
für 7.5cm Pak 39 L/48", and finally "Jagdpanzer 38 Hetzer". It appears
that the name Hetzer was not an official name but used by troops and
then used in post-war publications. On December 17, 1943, designs
were ready and, on January 24, 1944, a wooden mock-up was finished.
In March 1944, the first three proto-types were produced by BMM (Boehmish-Mährische
Maschinenfabrik) and it was decided to start production. From March
to April of 1944, prototypes were extensively tested, while preparations
for production were made at BMM (Praga/CKD-Ceskomoravska Kolben Danek)
in Prague and then at Skoda Works at Pilsen.
On April 20, 1944, the Hetzer was shown to Hitler and other leaders of the Third Reich at Arys. At this time, the new Panzerjäger was designated Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer , Sd.Kfz.138/2, but it was also known simply as Panzerjäger 38(t). Production started, in April 1944, at BMM and, in Septem-ber, at Skoda. 2,584 were produced by May 1945. In April 1944, BMM produced the first 20 Hetzers and monthly production increased greatly thereafter. Eventually, plants in Prague, Pilsen, Königgrätz, Boehm, and Breslau made the Hetzer. Late-war production plans called for 1,000 Hetzers per month, starting in mid-1945.
Hetzer was built on the Panzerkampfwagen 38(t)'s widened chassis with modified suspension (larger road-wheels from Praga TNH n.A prototype reconnaissance tank) and up-rated engine. The new engine was 160hp Praga AC/2 6-cylinder engine controlled by Praga-Wilson gearbox (5 forward and 1 reverse gear). Chassis was modified in order to accommodate larger gun and thicker armour than regular Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) tank. Hetzer carried 320 litres of fuel in two tanks, which gave it maximum range of 177km. Its combat weight was 16 metric tons and it could travel at maximum speed of some 42km/h. Hetzer's tracks had 96 links per side with 350mm wide tracks with track surface contact of 2.72m. Hetzer had a low well-sloped hull of welded construction. Hull had 60mm thick frontal plate, 8mm thin roof and rear armour and 20mm thin side armour. All armoured plates sloped inwards. In addition, Hetzer was fitted with small 5mm side skirts (Schuerzen). It was armed with 75mm Pak 39 L/48 gun with limited traverse (5 degrees to the left and 11 degrees to the right) and elevation (-6 degrees to +10 degrees). The gun was mounted with Sfl.Z.F.1a gun sight. Main armament was protected by 60mm cast gun mantlet - Saukopf. Heavy gun and thick frontal plate overloaded the front but it was later corrected by the use of strengthen suspension.
Hetzers were to equip tank destroyer units
(Panzerjaeger Abteilung / Panzerjaeger Kompanie) of infantry divisions,
panzergrenadier divisions and independent units. Main center for training
of future Hetzer crews was located at Milovice - Panzerjaegerschule.
Majority was issued to Wehrmacht infantry divisions (starting in July
of 1944) with 15th and 76th Infantry Division) and Volksgrenadier
divisions. Hetzers were also issued as replacements for Marders and
other Jagdpanzers to other units.
In last months of the war, Hetzers were often issued as replacements for lost battle tanks, a role they were not intended for (e.g. Panzer Division Kurmark and Feldherrnhalle). Some were issued to improvised units created in the last days of the war from various military personnel. Hetzer was also one of the last German armoured fighting vehicles that remained in production and was issued to the troops until the last days of the war.
Hetzers equipped all types of formations of the Wehrmacht, Waffen-SS (10 divisions), Luftwaffe (1 division), Kriegsmarine (2 divisions), RAD (3 divisions) and ROA (Russian Liberation Army) and saw service on all fronts. Large number of Hetzers took part in the German offensive in the Ardennes in late 1944.
First Hetzers entered service with 731st and 743rd Heeres Panzerjager Abteilung in May/June of 1944. Each unit received 45 Hetzers and both units saw service on the Eastern Front. Following, Hetzers were issued to three more independent units - 741st (1944), 561st (1945) and 744th Heeres Panzerjager Abteilung (1945). Waffen-SS received small number of Hetzer and first unit to be issued with Hetzers was 8th SS Cavalry Division Florian Geyer in September of 1944. Some 200 were issued in 1944 and 1945 to 10 Waffen SS divisions, mainly panzergrenadier.
|Model:||Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer||Flammpanzer 38(t) Hetzer|
|Crew:||4 men||4 men|
|Engine:||Praga AC/2 / 6-cylinder / 160hp||Praga AC/2 / 6-cylinder / 160hp|
|Fuel Capacity:||320 liters||320 liters|
|Lenght:||4.77m||4.87m (w/o cover)
6.83 (with cover)
|Armament:|| 7.5cm Pak 39 L/48
1 x 7.92mm MG34/42
| 14mm Flammenwerfer 41
1 x 7.92mm MG34/42
|Ammo:||7.5cm - 41 rounds
7.92mm - 600 rounds
| 14mm Flammenwerfer - 700 litres
7.92mm - 600 rounds
|Armor (mm/angle):|| Front Superstructure: 60/60
Front Hull: 60/40
Side Superstructure: 20/40
Side Hull: 20/15
Rear Superstructure: 8/70
Rear Hull: 20/15
Superstructure Top / Bottom: 8/90
Hull Top / Bottom: 10/90
Gun Mantlet: 60 Saukopfblende (Jagdpanzer)
Armoured recovery vehicle based on Hetzer's base - Bergepanzer 38(t) Hetzer and PzKpfw 38(t)'s base - Bergepanzer 38(t), with lower open-top superstructure which was operated by the crew of four. For local defense purposes, one MG34 was carried inside. Bergepanzer 38(t) Hetzer - recovery vehicle (1944/45 - 170 produced by BMM ).
In 1943, Auto-Union was ordered to design fully tracked reconnaissance vehicle for the needs of the Eastern Front. The vehicle was to carry 6 to 8 soldiers acting as a personnel carrier and was not to engage enemy vehicles. In early 1944, Auto-Union produced full scale mockup along with two prototypes. The fighting compartment was open at the top. The crew consisted of driver (on the left) and MG42 gunner (on the right). The fighting compartment layout was similar to the Sd.Kfz.251 personnel carrier. The vehicle was powered by 180-200hp Maybach HL 50Z engine. Armor protection ranged from 14.5mm (sides and rear) to 30mm (front). The chassis combined newly designed components (e.g. overlapping steel-rimmed wheels) along with those of PzKpfw IV (e.g. tracks). Both prototypes were tested at Berka in the Summer of 1944 and numerous mechanical problems were encountered. In September of 1944, Auto-Union was ordered to end work on the design and BMM was ordered to continue work by adaptating Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer chassis. One of two Auto-Union prototypes designated as Gepanzerter Mannschaftransportwagen Katzchen (Kitten) was captured by the US Army in early 1945. Two prototypes based on PzKpfw 38(t) nA (neuer Art) were ordered. BMM's design was similar to that of Auto-Union, but featured some modifications (e.g. two MGs instead of one, engine on the right instead of left, improved armor protection - 50mm front, etc). Two type of engines were considered and tested, 220hp Tatra 103 and 280hp Praga NR. The BMM's design had better performance than the Auto-Union one e.g. maximum road speed of 64km/h and maximum cross-country speed of 40km/h with range of 600km. Production of BMM's design designated as Vollkettenaufklarer 38(t) Katzchen (Kitten) was planned but never took place and two prototypes were probably destroyed late in the war.
Eventually, Jagdpanzer 38(d) based on PzKpfw 38(d) armed with 75mm Pak 39 L/48 or 75mm PzJagK 42 L/70 was to be produced as a replacement for Hetzer. Jagdpanzer 38(d) was to be powered by either Tatra 103 Diesel engine or Maybach HL64 fuel-injected engine. Some 1250 were ordered and production was to start in the Summer of 1945.Hetzer with 75mm KwK 42 L/70 gun (few made)
few Hetzers were rearmed with Panther's 75mm KwK 42 L/70 in order to increase their hitting power. After tests this idea was rejected since the long barreled gun made the nose extremely heavy and entire vehicle less mobile and difficult to operate. Krupp also proposed to modify Hetzer into Panzerjaeger 38(t) mit 75mm L/70 - Hetzer mounted with new larger superstructure in the rear armed with 75mm L/70 gun.
15cm Schweres Infanteriegeschuetz 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer - 150mm s.IG.33/2 howitzer carrier (1944 - 30 produced)