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Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust


By Sakhal

Unlike what was expected at the beginning, the Second World War assumed an increasingly slow evolution that lasted for painful and tragic years. This new aspect of the situation led to a modification in the type of warlike operations, and hence to an evolution in armament, logistics and the tactical and strategical usage of the fighting forces. The very German Army, that had entered the war well prepared and with a well developed and outlined physiognomy, in the early 1944 had made so many changes that it could be considered as fully renovated. But not only technology had made great progress; in the very art of leading the war it had been realised the fast developing of two specialities that initially did not seem destined to have such great dimension and importance: the aerial and the armored warfare. In the first one, Germany, already lost the superiority in the air, put their hopes in the so boasted secret weapons and the new and sophisticated fighter aircraft. Some kind of an offensive of quality against quantity. In the second case, the Wehrmacht, after having initially directed the game, found themselves harassed by the Red Army tanks that, after having suffered hard slaps from the Panzerwaffe, had learned the lesson and developed their own tactics of armored warfare that were increasingly effective. Also in this scenario the Germans opposed quality to quantity, but it was not a sitution that could be prolonged much time. It was clear that the anti-tank warfare should be intensified to the maximum, and due to the impossibility of producing large masses of armored vehicles, the German Army decided to constitute a certain number of small autonomous units characterized by a great firepower thanks to a notable dotation of automatic and anti-tank weapons. Among these it was given great importance to the most manageable or the individual ones. Following an American idea that was being experimented since time ago by the Germans, around the late 1943 the Wehrmacht deployed in the battlefield a new generation of weapons: the launchers of rocket-propelled hollow-charges, simply enhanced versions of the American bazooka. In this article we will see the characteristics of these weapons and the operating principle whose application made possible to obtain the deadly effects that put so many Allied tanks out of action.

Raketenwerfer Panzerbuchse 43 (Anti-tank Rocket Launcher Rifle)

Originally named Ofenrohr (Stovepipe), later was renamed as Panzerschreck (Terror of the Armored). It was not an exaggeration, since from 100 meters afar it was able to destroy any existing tank. Beyond that distance it was hard to aim, and also the average speed of the projectile (80 meters per second) contributed to this. The main defect of the Panzerschreck 43 was the large fire trail that the projectile left behind, which apart from revealing the position of the weapon could cause burns to the operator. To prevent this second inconvenience, the weapon was subsequently fitted with a protective shield with an eyehole. The weapon was served by two persons, one shooting and another loading the projectiles. These were loaded on the rear part, and insured by a retaining tooth that prevented the projectile from falling in case of inclination of the weapon. The ignition was of electromagnetic type and originated the departure of the projectile without any recoil.

Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust


Caliber: 77 mm

Length: 164 cm

Weight (without shield): 9 kg

Projectile weight: 3 kg

Piercing power: 180 mm at 100 m

Maximum range: 400 m

Raketenwerfer Panzerbuchse 54 E 54/1

This was the model 43 expanded to a caliber of 88 millimeters with a maximum effective range extended to 200 meters.

Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust


Caliber: 88 mm

Length: 164 cm

Weight (without shield): 9.3 kg

Projectile weight: 3.2 kg

Piercing power: 180 mm at 200 m

Maximum range: 400 m

PANZERFAUST

The weapons of the series Panzerfaust (Armored Fist), originally named Faustpatrone (Fist Cartridge), were in the practice rocket-propelled hollow-charge grenades, launched from a tube following the principle of recoilless cannon. Aiming was made by a sight which, set in position, released the safety device. The ignition mechanism was of percussion type. The blaze generated by the rocket propeller disintegrated the plastic top that sealed the tube in the rear end, so the launching of the projectile was recoilless. Just after the tail left the launching tube, its four stabilizing fins made of flexible steel were deployed to help the projectile follow a straight trajectory.

Panzerfaust 30

First model in the series, it was the most dangerous one to operate due to its low level of perfectioning. Measuring 103 centimeters in length, it launched a projectile weighing 3.1 kilograms, able to penetrate 140 millimeters of steel, with an inclination of 30 degrees, from 30 meters afar.

Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust


Gretchen (Small Greta)

Reduced version of the Panzerfaust 30, having 80 centimeters in length and with a projectile weighing 1.6 kilograms, intended for lighter targets.

Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust


Panzerfaust 60

Modified version of the Panzerfaust 30, with improved construction and safer to use. The sight was graduated for three distances: 30, 60 and 80 meters. It was able to pierce up to 200 millimeters of steel with an angle of incidence of 30 degrees. From this model onwards, the launching tube, which in previous models was disposable, was recovered to build new weapons.

Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust


Panzerfaust 100

This was the most perfected and produced version. Prepared for launchings at 50, 100 and 150 meters, it was capable of destroying any enemy tank in a radius of 80 meters. Measuring little more than one meter in length, it weighed 6.8 kilograms.

Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust


HOW HOLLOW CHARGES OPERATE

It is known as Munroe Effect the ability that some explosives have to concentrate their emission of energy if they are adequately moulded. The discovery was made by the American scientific so called in the late 19th century. If we take the charge of the typical artillery projectile which has an ojival shape and embowel the fore part creating a perfectly parabolic cavity, in the moment of the explosion all the energy produced by the charge will be concentrated (specially in the form of heat) in the focus of the parabola. During many time, this phenomenon was applied solely for certain cutting effects in metal plates. Only during the Second World War it was thought of using this principle on the warlike science, with the results that we already know. The effect of the explosion of a hollow charge against the armor of a tank is that the dart of fire that emerges from the projectile (with a temperature circa 3000-3500 degrees) melts the steel armor of the tank and insufflates inside it a blast of burning gas able to cinder the crew, explode the ammunitions or ignite the fuel. Externally the result appears as a hole few centimeters in diameter with melt borders. From the interior the hole has a conical shape, with the larger diameter on the inner side. The illustration shows a Panzerfaust projectile, whose blue part represents the TNT explosive and the yellow part the hollow chamber where the explosion will concentrate towards the tip of the projectile.

Panzerschreck and Panzerfaust


Categories: Infantry - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]

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Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2014-09-26


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