Based on the Panzer IICalled by the Waffenamt "Leichte Feldhaubitze 18 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II", but known by every footsoldier as the "Wespe" ("Wasp"). This self-propelled artillery was the most famous and durable in service in the German Army throughout the war, but not the most produced. This title belonged to the bigger Hummel, fitted with a 150 mm howitzer. It began as a paper project when it became clear, after the reports following the Battle of France, that the Panzer II was not suitable anymore as a frontline tank, lacking the required the armament and protection to face the new generations of AFVs. At the end of 1941 Alkett designed a conversion based on the Panzer II Ausf D/E (Christie suspension), the Marder II (Sd.Kfz. 132). By the beginning of 1942, the same conversion was applied to the Panzer II Ausf A-C (Sd.Kfz. 131). This idea was also used to adapt a standard 105 mm (4.13 in) howitzer to the chassis, and have the perfect match for the mobility of the Panzerdivisions, providing the required indirect artillery support, complementary to the Stukas.
Design by Alkett, production by FAMOAlkett engineers became famous after designing and producing a large number of conversions of various tank platforms as SPGs of all kind, alongside FAMO, MAN and others. They had to choose the most recent chassis for conversion, the Ausf F, which provided most of the mechanical parts. But contrary to the Marder series, Alkett choose to put a counterweight for the massive recoil and the engine itself was relocated to the front, while the fighting compartment was shifted to the rear. Engine exhausts were pierced under it. The frontal glacis was redesigned and well-sloped and the chassis was lengthened to the rear to make room for the common 10.5 cm (4.13 in) leFH 18 howitzer built by Rheinmetall-Borsig. The superstructure was also model-specific, well sloped but only 10 mm (0.39 in) thick and with an open top. The suspensions were reinforced to cope with the stress of the recoil and the space between the last roadwheel and the idler was widened. The driver compartment was at the front and fully enclosed. The ZFA SSG 46 Aphon gearbox (6 forward and 1 reverse) served the same Maybaych six-inline engine fed by two 140 liters fuel tanks. The weight rose to 11 tons but the speed was maintained to max 40 km/h (24.85 mph). There was also a FuG Spr f radio inside the hull.
After Alkett produced a prototype for testings in late 1942, FAMO\'s Ursus plant in Warsaw was charged with the design. On the 14th of July, 1942, the Panzer-Kommission approved the concept and Hitler confirmed an order for 1000 on the July 25. But the production only began in February 1943 and lasted until June 1944 when the main factory was captured by the Red Army. In total 676 were delivered by Ursus - Fahrzeug und Motorenbau (FAMO) of Breslau (Wroclaw) and Vereinigte Maschinenwerke/Famo Warschau in Poland.
Main variant: The Ammunition carrierSince the Wespe was cramped and could only carry limited ammo, the Munitionschlepper auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II, or more simply "Munitionschlepper auf Wespe", was designed as a weaponless variant, entirely filled with storage boxes containing 90 105 mm (4.13 in) shells, to complement the limited supply of regular Wespes (32 rounds). 159 were built in all, by the same manufacturer and two were attached to each unit (Abteilung) of six Wespes. The modifications were modular and each could be converted in the field to a regular SPG at a moment\'s notice.
It must be noted that, before the Wespe, another SPG was based on the Panzer II chassis, the rare (only 12 built) 15 cm (5.9 in) sIG 33 auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen II (Sf) which fought in North Africa. The old, but still efficient, 150 mm (5.9 in) was much heavier and in order to cope with that the superstructure was lowered considerably, exposing the crew to small arms fire.
The "Wespe" in actionThe Eastern Front took the biggest part of the Wespe production and the first Panzerartillerie Abteilung equipped with this vehicle appeared in March 1943. They saw extensive service alongside the Hummel, first at Kursk, then on all three Eastern fronts. They were so successful that, after reading reports, Hitler ordered all other conversions base on the Panzer II chassis to be stopped and reserved for the Wespe only. By the summer of 1944 some Abteilungen were sent in Normandy as reinforcements. They fought in Italy as well, taking part in the pounding of Allied forces in the Anzio pocket and defending the Caesar and Gustav lines. No less than 36 Panzer divisions, including SS and special units received Wespes, seeing active service on all fronts after 1943. By March 1945 307 were still in service. The crews praised its reliability and mobility but despised the lack of protection, both in thickness and height. The fighting compartment was also very cramped. The loaders working at the back end of the superstructure were the most exposed. Surviving Wespes can be seen at Saumur and Bayeux (France), Koblenz (Germany) and Kubinka (Russia).
|Sd.Kfz. 124 specifications|
|Dimensions||4.81x2.28x2.30 m (15.78x7.48x7.54 ft)|
|Total weight, battle ready||11 tons|
|Crew||5 (driver, commander, gunner, two loaders)|
|Propulsion||Maybach Maybach HL 62 TRM 6 cyl, 140 hp|
|Speed (on/off road)||40/20 km/h (24.85/12.42 mph)|
|Max Range (on/off road)||220/140 km (136.7/86.99 mi)|
|Armament||105 mm (4.13 in) leFH 18/2 L/26 (early) or L/28 (late)
7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG34
|Armor||Front 20 mm (0.78 mm)
Lower hull 30 mm (1.18 in)
Sides 15 mm (0.59 in)
Superstructure 10 mm (0.39 in)
Links about the Sd.Kfz. 124On Wikipedia
Sd Kfz-221 On wwiivhehicles.com
Wespe from the 2nd Panzerartillerie Regiment, Russia, June 1944 - XXL picture.
Wespe from the 146th Panzerartillerie Regiment, PanzerLehr Regiment, Normandy, summer 1944.
Wespe from the 1st Abteilung, Panzerartillerie regiment, 8th Panzerdivision, Ukraine, summer 1944.
Wespe from an unidentified unit, Italy, summer 1944.
Wespe from an unidentified Abteilung, perhaps part of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division, Anzio, January 22, 1944.
Wespe of an unidentified unit, Hungary, March 1945.
Munitionschlepper auf Wespe, Fallschrimpanzerdivision Hermann Göring, east Prussia, winter 1944-45.
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