Panzerjäger Hornisse / Nashorn Sd. Kfz. 164 Was Nazi Germany’s World War II Tank Sniper
8.8cm PaK43/1 (L/71) auf Geschutzwagen III und IV (Sf)
German tanks during World War II were often outmatched by superior Red Army designs beginning with the T-34. Armor, reliability and firepower were all—at various times—serious shortcomings.
To counteract the Soviet beasts, Germany rushed ahead with tank destroyers—armored vehicles designed to inflict long-range firepower from concealed positions—but these also had a mixed record. The introduction of the Ferdinand during the 1943 Battle of Kursk turned into a disaster as the vehicles broke down from mechanical failures.
But Germany managed to produce practical and satisfactory tank destroyers, the Nashorn being one of the more successful designs.
Manufacturer Alkett completed the 24-ton, nearly nine-foot-high tracked vehicle by combining a modified Panzer III/IV chassis with an 88-millimeter gun—one of the deadliest German weapons in the war.
Historical memory is generally favorable to the Nashorn, which entered service in early 1943 as an interim stopgap. As a result, only 473 Nashorns were produced, but the type served until the end of the war and inflicted pain on the heaviest Allied and Soviet tanks. The Nashorn was also inexpensive and quick to build due to the simple, evolutionary design.
An MG-34 or MG-42 machine gun served as the crew’s close-range protection.
During the December 1943 battles for Vitebsk, the 3rd Panzer Army fought desperate battles as it fell back to defend the Panther Line. One Nashorn under Capt. Albert Ernst knocked out 14 Soviet tanks during one day of the battle. And in March 1945, a Nashorn knocked out a U.S. M-26 Pershing heavy tank, one of that type’s few losses in the war.
The Nashorn’s gun and open-top superstructure sat high, which was a disadvantage, but the machine was designed to ambush tanks from thousands of yards away in a hull-down position, and then move quickly. So provided that field commanders used them appropriately, they remained deadly.
The tank destroyer’s armor was a mere 30-millimeters thick in the hull, and 10 millimeters in the superstructure, which was practically nothing for everything except small arms. A modified Nashorn introduced in May 1943 featured a redesigned front armor plate with 15 millimeters of armor.
But there’s a lesson there. Although the Nashorn had its downsides, notably the lack of armor, it was a cheap and effective long-range weapon.
Nashorn in Action !
The most notable Nashorn ace was platoon commander of 1st company of sPzJagAbt 519, Junior Lieutenant Albert Ernst. He later commanded the 1st company of sPzJagAbt 512 (equipped with Jagdtigers). On December 23rd of 1943, he destroyed some 14 Soviet tanks in a single day using only 21 round of ammunition. The engagement took place near Vitebsk and Albert Ernst received a nickname “Tiger of Vitebsk”. In December of 1943, Ernst destroyed total of 19 enemy tanks and on January 22nd of 1944, he was awarded the Knight’s Cross.
It is reported that in early March of 1945, Lieutenant Beckmann from sPzJagAbt 88 destroyed Soviet IS-2 at the range of 4600 meters near Marzdorf.
Some Nashorn crews reported that they were able to knock out Soviet T-34 tanks at distance as great as 4000 meters (maximum effective range of the gun). Nashorn crews also reported numerous kills of KV and IS-2 tanks as well as SU-152, ISU-122 and ISU-152 assault guns.
Nashorn from 2nd Company of schwere Heeres Panzer Jaeger Abteilung 93 was also responsible for the destruction of the only M26 Pershing, destroyed in Europe. Pershing from the 3rd Armored Division was knocked out at the distance of 250 meters with a single shot. This engagement took place in the town of Niehl, north of Cologne on March 6th of 1945.
|Engine:||Maybach HL 120 TRM / 12-cylinder / 300hp|
|Fuel Capacity:||470 litres|
|Lenght:||8.44m (with the gun)|
|Armament:||88mm Pak 43/1 L/71 & 1 x 7.92mm MG34/42
(1 x MG – carried inside)
|Ammo:||88mm – 24-40 rounds
7.92mm – 600 rounds
|Armor (mm/angle):||Front Hull: 30/20
Front Superstructure: 10/37
Side Hull: 20/0
Side Superstructure: 10/16
Rear Hull: 20/10
Rear Superstructure: 10/10
Hull Top / Bottom: 15/90
Gun Shield: 10/37
|Pzgr.39 (APCBC) – Armor Piercing Composite Ballistic Cap|
|Pzgr.40/43 (APCR) – Armor Piercing Composite Rigid (Tungsten Core)|