SdKfz 251

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SdKfz 251/1 Ausf. C

History

Ar de sdkfz 251.jpg
SdKfz 232 / 8Rad
Specifications
Type Personnel Carrier
Armament MG: 7.92mm MG34
Crew 2 (Driver, Commander/Gunner)
Weight 7,850kg
Top Speed 58km/h

World War I ended with Germany firmly convinced that the tank had played a large part in her downfall. The German Army was equally convinced that for tanks to be exploited to their fullest, they needed to be supported with infantry. On the few occasions that Allied tanks had advanced on an objective without infantry support, they had pushed the defenders from their positions, but as soon as the tanks withdrew, it was a simple matter for the defending infantry to re-occupy the vacant ground.

The Versailles Treaty of 1919 imposed severe military restrictions on the Germany but permitted the country a small number of armored cars and armored trucks to deal with smoldering civil unrest. By late 1920, the German Reichswehr (National Guard) had organized seven motor-transport battalions, each equipped with 15 armored personnel carriers as permitted by the Allied Control Commission.

Germany watched the limited amount of experimentation with armored forces during the interwar period, particularly the British Experimental Mechanized Force of the 1920s. This force was set up to study, on a small scale, the lessons of the last years of World War I, and resulted in the concept of coordinated tank, infantry, assault engineers and artillery under one command. This would become the basic principle of the German Panzer-Division.

Consequently, Germany recognized a need for armored personnel carriers that would allow the infantry to keep up with the tank advance. In 1926, the Germany Army tested trucks and half-tracks to determine future procurement and operational policy. It purchased a number of half-tracks, mainly as artillery tractors, and concluded that this type of vehicle was ideal for cross-country use. This led to requirements for prototypes in six weight classes. These were built and tested, and in time led to the famous series of half-track gun tractors used extensively by the Germans in all theatres of World War II.

In 1937, the Germany Army decided to fit an armored body to the three-tonne half-track; this vehicle was large enough to carry a full infantry squad of ten men and their equipment. The Hanomag-built chassis had a faceted, well-sloped armored body designed by Büssing-NAG that strongly resembled that used on the armored cars. The armor fit with only minimal changes to the chassis, such as the tilt of the steering wheel. After successful trials, the mittlerer SchutzenPanzerwagen (medium Infantry Armored Vehicle) with the ordnance designation SdKfz 251 was rushed into production. The first vehicle, ready in spring 1939, equipped an infantry company in 1. Panzer-Division for troop trials.

The 1938 production version of the three-tonne tractor, the Hanomag Hkl 6, was used and this basic design was locked in until production ended in 1945, although many details changed. German half-tracks were highly sophisticated and radically different than half-tracks in other nations, which mostly used the simple track and spring bogie designed by the Frenchman Adolphe Kégresse. The front wheels, steered conventionally, supported the front end and the long three-quarter length track units supported the weight of the vehicle. Drive was taken from the transmission via a Cletrac-type controlled differential with steering brakes on the shafts to the front sprocket wheels. These brakes acted automatically when the front wheels were steered more than 15 degrees and help the vehicle manage an 11m turning circle.

The four-speed gearbox had two-speed auxiliary boxes for off-road use, giving eight forward and two reverse gears.

Initially, the sprocket wheels had rollers that engaged detachable rubber pads fitted to the inside of the track. These pads also cushioned the wheel paths. These tracks used sealed, lubricated, needle roller bearings. This system extended track life and gave excellent traction, but it was expensive to produce. Later production vehicles had conventional socket teeth and dry track pins to simplify production and reduce costs.

The suspension was by sprung torsion bars, with perforated-disc road wheels interleaved, rolling on solid rubber tires. The suspension had excellent performance, although it could freeze and immobilze the vehicle in frozen mud or snow if parked overnight during winter.

The conventional girder chassis frame rested on welded cross-members. Six-milimeter armored belly plates protected the chassis from mines. The hull was built of two sections bolted together, a front section with the engine and driving compartments, and the rear one containing the passenger and fighting compartment. Both electric welding and riveting was used in the construction of the hull; some firms in manufacturing the SdKfz 251 had facilities for riveting but not welding. The engine was a Maybach HL42TUKRM six-cylinder, 100hp water-cooled unit of 4L capacity.

The basic variant had a crew of two, a driver and a vehicle commander. Most types had a simple interior fitted with padded bench seats along each side with large double doors at the rear. Each vehicle could carry a basic infantry squad complete with their machine gun, and four vehicles could carrying a platoon.

The four basic production models were mechanically similar with external detail differences. Each further simplified its predecessor, reducing production time and costs. The first production type in 1939, the Ausf. A, had three prominent vision ports in each side of the hull superstructure. The radio aerial was fitted to the right front fender and a simple swivel bracket without a shield was fitted to the front and rear of the fighting compartment. This was soon succeeded by the Ausf. B, the major type in service during 1940, whose improvements had been suggested by service experience. The side vision ports in the passenger compartment were omitted, tools and equipment re-arranged, and the forward MG 34 mount fitted with a shield. Stowage lockers were installed on each side between the superstructure and mudguards. The radio aerial was re-positioned to the superstructure.

The Ausf. B continued in production until the end of 1940, although the Ausf. C had entered production in the middle of that year. The Ausf. C replaced the angled two-piece nose plate with a single plate that left the radiator exposed toward the bottom and improved cooling, and armored cooling intakes were fitted prominently on the sides of the engine compartment.

In 1942, in order to speed up production and cut costs, many of the German AFVs were simplified as much as possible. In the SdKfz 251 Ausf. D, faceted areas on the vehicle's back and engine compartment sides were replaced by single large plates. The engine cooling intakes were incorporated under the engine compartment's side amour and the stowage lockers, originally detachable, were built into the superstructure. The vision ports were replaced by simple vision slits. Late Ausf. Ds used wooden benches insyeadof the tubular steel predecessor. The Ausf. D employed all-welded construction and remained in production from late 1943 until the war's end.

There were some 23 official variants of the SdKfz 251, and several unofficial variants, as well as numerous prototypes carrying pieces such as 8,8cm PaK guns, 2cm Flakvierling (Quadruple Anti-Aircraft Gun) mounts, and a variety of old tank turrets and odd weapons. Some variants ported fire-support weapons, like anti-tank guns, flamethrowers, the 8cm mortar, 28cm or 32cm rockets, and the old standby, the PzKpfw IV 7,5cm Kw.K. 37 L / 24 gun.

A few types carried extra radios to maintain regimental and divisional communications. One was a telephone exchange and cable-layer. A few served artillery in armored-observation, survey, sound-ranging and flash-spotting roles. There was also an armored ambulance and a variant for assault pioneers fitted with brackets for assault bridges.

Quite possibly the oddest/most fascinating use of the platform was the Sdkfz 251/20. It mounted an infrared searchlight and fought alongside Panther tanks with infrared detectors. The halftrack would "light up" targets with the invisible Infrared beam so tha the Panthers could detect and zero in on them.

Although more than 15,000 SdKfz 251s were manufactured before and during World War II, there were never enough to go around. In theory, all the infantry in a Panzer-Division was to ride SdKfz 251s but usually only one or two battalion per Panzer-Division were so equipped.

After the war, the Skoda-built OT-810 served as the standard troop carrier of the Czechoslovakian Army until well into the 1970s. This was similar to the SdKfz 251 Ausf. D with a fully enclosed troop compartment.

Game Play

The SdKfz 251 is the only armored personnel carrier in the game. Its open top makes a nice target for grenades and snipers, not to mention aircraft, but it is still an exceptionally good vehicle for delivering infantry into combat operations with some degree of protection from small-arms fire.

The machine gun above the driver’s position is handy for infantry suppression, but is extremely vulnerable enemy fire from the side or rear. When you spawn, the first thing you should do is to jump to crew position 2 and pull him down into the vehicle, although some drivers prefer to leave the gunner up as a sniper detector - enemy infantry cannot resist shooting him when he’s exposed. Hardly surprising.

You have good armor for a light vehicle, due to the radical slope on most of the surfaces, but it’s not thick and will only reliably protect you from small arms fire. Nothing is going to save you from a grenade inside your vehicle, so spend minimal time in hotly contested combat areas.

If your infantry need support, drive up, drop them off, then pull back. Your machine gun has decent range and not only will you be safe, you can cover a wider area with your suppressive fire.

In position 1, the H key opens a side window armor panel, making the driver vulnerable to side shots to the head. Key O opens the rear door. Crew position 2 is the machine gunner, and begins deployed in firing position. Using the numpad “.” or “Ins” key will make him look through the gunsight, which is not adjustable for range. The O key in crew position 2 will sit him on the floor of the vehicle, from where he can't fire the machine gun.

Armor

Location Thickness Angle
Hull front 14.5 mm 21°?
Hull sides 8 mm 35°?
Hull rear 8 mm 30°?
Hull top 6 mm 90°
Superstructure front 10 mm 33°?
Superstructure sides 8 mm 35°?
Superstructure rear 8 mm 40°?
Superstructure top open