Sd.Kfz. 7

The Sd.Kfz. 7 was a half-track military vehicle used by the German Wehrmacht Heer, Luftwaffe and Waffen-SS during the Second World War. (Sd.Kfz. is an abbreviation of the German word Sonderkraftfahrzeug, "special purpose vehicle". A longer designation is Sd.Kfz. 7 mittlerer Zugkraftwagen 8t, "medium towing motor vehicle 8t".)

Sd.Kfz. 7
Class Vehicle
Type Armoured Fighting Vehicle
Manufacturer Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG
Production Period 1938 - 1944
Origin Germany
Country Name Origin Year
Germany 1938
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Bulgaria View
Czechoslovakia View
Germany 1938 1945 View
Italy View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Krauss-Maffei Wegmann GmbH & Co. KG 1938 1944 12187 View

Development of the Sd.Kfz. 7 can be traced back to a 1934 Wehrmacht requirement for an eight-tonne (7.87 tons) half-track. Various trial vehicles were built by Krauss-Maffei from 1934 to 1938. The production vehicle first appeared in 1938 and was intended to be used mainly as the tractor for the 8.8 cm FlaK gun and the 15 cm sFH 18 150 mm howitzer. Production was stopped in 1944. The vehicle was made by Krauss-Maffei in Munich, the Sauserwerke in Vienna and the Borgward works at Bremen. Because of its heavy power, it often found use as a recovery vehicle.

The vehicle could carry gun crews of up to 12 men in theatre-type seats. Under the seats was storage room for various tools, and the whole vehicle was spacious enough to carry their kit. The rear of the vehicle housed an enclosed compartment for storage of ammunition, though a second ammunition carrier was desirable. The tractor could tow loads up to 8,000 kg (17,600 lb) in weight. Most were fitted with a winch that could pull up to 3450 kg. It had a payload of 1800 kg. The windscreen was able to fold down and a canvas roof could be erected. A number were also constructed with a hard top, but this was less common in service. A later simplified type appeared with a timber frame truck-type layout, the ammunition being stored behind the driver's station and the gun crew having space on wooden benches behind.

The running gear consisted of two front wheels with hydro-pneumatic tires for steering and a track each side with 14 road wheels — 7 per side, overlapping and interleaved in the common Schachtellaufwerk design for German half-tracks — on each side of the vehicle; a drive sprocket was located at the front of each track system. Minor variations on the track and road wheel design and manufacture took place throughout the course of service, some being combined in the field as repairs took place. In 1943, the Maybach HL 62 engine was replaced with Maybach HL 64.

German Army

The use of half-tracked prime movers for artillery was common in the German forces but not elsewhere. Compared to wheeled vehicles, half-tracks are more difficult to maintain, they often suffer track breakages, and are slower on roads. However, they have better off-road mobility compared to wheeled vehicles.

The iconic Sd.Kfz.7 was used throughout the war. Sd.Kfz. 7 were seen during the 1940 Paris victory parade and the Sd.Kfz. 7 features in much German wartime propaganda footage, contributing to the myth of the mechanized Blitzkrieg. In fact, while produced in large numbers, there were never enough to fully equip the German forces. Typically like many other types, the artillery elements of Panzer and mechanized infantry units (Panzergrenadier) received them, while other units continued to rely on horses to draw their guns.

The Sd.Kfz. 7 saw extensive use in the North African Campaign where their tracks allowed them to drive through the desert sands far more effectively than trucks. Often columns carrying troops or POW's would include at least two half tracks with one generally riding point in order to make a path through the sands that the trucks could follow.

The Sd.Kfz. 7 also became the basis of a number of self-propelled anti-aircraft variants based on 20 mm and 37 mm flak types in use. The Sd.Kfz. 7/1 was armed with a 2 cm Flakvierling 38 quadruple anti-aircraft gun system. The Sd.Kfz. 7/2 was armed with a single 3.7 cm FlaK 36 anti-aircraft gun. On many of these variants, the driver's position and the engine cover was armored (8 mm thickness). There were also conversions made mounting a single 2 cm anti-aircraft gun. Trial vehicles mounting a 5 cm FlaK 41 were produced but proved unsuccessful, and did not enter serial production.

A variant with an armored superstructure based on the Sd.Kfz. 7, the Feuerleitpanzer auf Zugkraftwagen 8t, was used by launch crews of the V-2 ballistic missile. This was necessary as the V-2 sometimes malfunctioned and exploded on the launch pad. It was also used to tow the launch pad in place. Bunkers were not used as the V-2 was transported to widely dispersed launchpads by carriage on Meillerwagen trailers that could erect them atop the launchstands/flame deflectors that each dispersed launchpad facility was equipped with for surprise launches, to dissuade Allied air attacks.

Other armies

A licensed Italian-manufactured copy was built during the war (designated Breda 61, 250 produced 1942-1944) and is easily recognized by its longer hood and right-hand-drive steering.

The British company Bedford Motors (subsidiary of Vauxhall Motors) built an improved copy during the war, designated the Bedford Tractor (BT) and codenamed Traclat (from Tracked Light Artillery Tractor). Its intended use was to tow the 17 pounder, 25 pounder and Bofors 40 mm guns but the war ended before mass production was initiated. Six prototypes were built in 1944 for trials. The BT was powered by two Bedford engines and had ammunition lockers that were accessible from outside of the vehicle (unlike the Sd.Kfz. 7) and it also had automatic steering. The Traclat came about when in 1943, the Ministry of Supply asked Vauxhall Motors to construct a three-quarter tracked artillery prime mover which used a similar track and rear suspension system to that of a captured German 8-ton Sd.Kfz.7 medium artillery tractor. The first stage of the project involved shipping a number of captured German half-tracks from Libya back to Britain and asking Morris commercial cars to put them through a trials and evaluation programme with a view to developing a similar machine for British use. By early 1945, Vauxhall motors had been contracted to construct six prototypes of what became the Traclat. Official trials were set up at the Fighting Vehicle Proving Establishment (FVPE) in July 1946. The vehicle was required to tow a 25-pounder gun and limber, and was pitched against a Crusader artillery tractor and an Alecto self-propelled gun. The Traclat gave the best performance, but still got bogged down in muddy ground. A number of vehicles were shipped to Germany for continued trials, however this came to nothing due to excessive costs and there was no serious production. The two Bedford truck engines produced a combined 136 bhp with a combined fuel consumption of 3.5mpg(1.27 km/litre). The Traclat had a maximum road speed of 30 mph (48 km/h).

Some Sd.Kfz. 7 were taken into service by the Allies after the Second World War. The Czechoslovak Army used them for some years after the war.

In The Tank Museum, Dorset, UK there is a detailed evaluation of a captured Sd.Kfz. 7 produced by Vauxhall Motors in 1942.

Type Half-track artillery tractor
Place of origin Nazi Germany
Service history
In service 1938 - 1945 (Nazi Germany)
Used by Nazi Germany, Italy, Bulgaria,Yugoslav Partisans (captured)Czechoslovakia (postwar), Allies(postwar)
Wars World War II
Production history
Designer Krauss-Maffei
Designed 1934
Manufacturer Krauss-Maffei, Borgward, Österreichische Saurer-Werke AG,Breda (Breda 61)
Unit cost 36,000 Reichsmark
Produced 1938 - 1944
Number built 12187
Variants Sd.Kfz. 7/1, Sd.Kfz. 7/2, Feuerleitpanzer auf Zugkraftwagen 8t, Breda 61
Weight 11.53 tonnes
Length 6.85 m (22 ft 6 in)
Width 2.35 m (7 ft 9 in)
Height 2.62 m (8 ft 7 in)
Crew 1 driver
Passengers 11
Engine Maybach HL 62 TUK, six-cylinder petrol
135 PS, (133 hp, 99 kW)
Power/weight 12.1 hp/tonne
Payload capacity 1,800 kg
Suspension Torsion bar
Fuel capacity 215 liters
250 km (160 mi) on roads
120 km (75 mi) off-road
Speed 50 km/h (31 mph) on roads

End notes