jagdtiger second generation of tank destroyers

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Ferdinand/Elefant
Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
Jagdpanzer IV
Jagdtiger

 
SdKfz 184 Ferdinand/Elefant
As a safeguard against the failure of the Henschel design for the Tiger I, Porsche had been ordered to produce his design. When the results of the trials at Rastenburg were announced, and the Henschel design was judged to be superior, 90 Porsche vehicles were already produced. It was decided to utilize the chassis as the basis of a self-propelled carriage for the 88mm L/71 gun, designated as Jagdpanzer SdKfz 184 Ferdinand (adopted in honor of the designer, Dr Ferdinand Porsche). It featured a huge, box-shaped superstructure with only slightly sloped sides, and was heavily armored but highly underpowered. 
Ferdinand at Kursk
Heavybolted extra armor on the front hull
As with Tiger tanks, the Ferdinand heavy tank destroyers were assigned to a separate regiment, comprising two battalions. Jagdpanzer Regiment 656 had PzJagAbt. 653, commanded by major Steinwachs, and PzJagAbt. 654, under major Noak. The vehicles were all dark yellow with heavy sprayed lines of olive green, and carried three digit numbers in white to denote the battery, section, and vehicle. The Ferdinands of PzJagAbt. 654 also displayed a white N on the front left mudguard, denoting their battalion commander. 

During operation Citadel at Kursk, the Ferdinands were used as break-through tanks, a role for which they were completely unsuited. Several Panzergrenadierers were carried with each vehicle for protection against Russian tank-killer infantry, but they were fully exposed and often unable to fight effectively from moving vehicles. The Ferdinand did not originally have a hull machine gun for self-defence and easily fell prey to Soviet infantry. 

Elefant with bow machine gun and zimmerit
Disabled Ferdinand
After its disastrous debut on the Eastern Front all surviving ones were modified to have a bow machine gun and a coat of zimmerit halfway up the superstructure. These improved vehicles were renamed Elefants and transferred to Italy. They had more success in the Italian campaign, being used in semi-static positions as true long range tank destroyers. However the chassis was very vulnerable to mines, as the loss of even one set of wheels rendered the Elefant immobile, and many damaged vehicles had to be abandoned. Vehicles in Italy were dark yellow with sprayed spots in red brown and olive green.
Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer
One of the most successful mobile gun carriages was the tank destoyer variant based on the chassis of the Czech PzKpfw 38(t), known as the Hetzer (trouble-maker). The Hetzer was developed during 1943 using the original PzKpfw 38(t) chassis widened to accommodate the 75mm anti-tank gun 39 (L/48). Later versions carried the 75mm 42 L/70 gun, the same as carried by the Panther. It mounted a MG34 on the top which was operated from the inside for close defence, had the same armament as the Jagdpanzer IV and looked like a miniature of the Jagdpanther. Later models had a better shaped mantlet and later pattern road wheels.
The small Jagdpanzer 38(t) or Hetzer
A disabled Hetzer with ambush scheme, France 1944
The driver, located at the left front, suffered least but was badly placed if forced to leave the vehicle in a hurry. Behind him sat the gunner, with the loader bringing up the rear, on the left of a gun designed to be loaded from the right. The commander sat in isolation at the right rear. Though cramped and inconvenient, the vehicle was very popular with its crews, and the Hetzer produced good results. It's 150HP 6 cylinder Prague engine allowed a maximum speed of 40km/h on the road and of 14km/h on uneven ground. 
A total of 1577 vehicles were built up to May 1945 (although production continued after the war by Skoda for the Czech and Swiss armies). They were used first on the Eastern front and later in the West, especially during the Ardennes offensive. The Hetzer was mainly used by anti-tank battalions (PanzerJägerAbteilung) of Infantry and Panzergrenadier Divisions. 

During late 1944 a number of flame-throwing tanks were built using the Hetzer chassis and hull; these were designated as Flammenwerferpanzer 38(t). There was also an armored recovery version designated the Bergpanzer 38(t) Hetzer. Plans were also drawn up for a recoilless Panzerwurfkanone or light gun, and a projected 150mm s.I.G. mounting on the Hetzer.

 with thanks to Didier for providing some of these pictures
 
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