Light tank destroyer
German World War II armored fighting vehicles gallery
The idea to create a new light and fast tank destroyer based on the chassis of obsolete tank Panzer 38(t) originated probably at the end of 1943. A wooden mock-up of the new machine was presented already in January 1944 and just two month later, first three prototypes were delivered. Testing of prototypes was more or less symbolical and the vehicle was immediately pushed into production. The first 20 pieces batch was finished already in April 1944 and production rate grown rapidly.
Hetzer (heckler) was of a very advanced design with sharply slopped front armor which increased its effective thickness. It weighted 16 tons, was powered by a 150 hp Praga engine and could achieve a top speed of 40 km/h. The main weapon was 75 mm PaK 39 L/48 anti-tank gun. Secondary weapon was the MG 34 or MG 42 machine gun installed on the roof and controlled remotely from inside of the vehicle.
Several special purpose conversions of the original tank destroyer were introduced. There was a fire throwing version, a wrecking version and even a self-propelled howitzer. Several prototypes of so called Hetzer Starr were built in 1944 having no recoil mechanism for the main gun. The purpose was to simplify and speed up the production. However this version was not a success because the fire produced too much stress for the armored body. According to some sources the combat name Hetzer was never made official and was more just a nickname.