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Weapons of World War Two

Jagdpanzer Elefant

Jagdpanzer Elefant

Area of Kursk, summer of 1943. Two armies, the Soviet and the German, are facing each other in which would be considered the largest battle of armored elements in the Second World War. Tanks and self-propelled tank destroyers fight resorting to every "trick of the trade" known by the crews; it is truly a fight of giants. Unexpectedly, the Russian tanks find before them an armored element never seen until then. Huge, of squarish forms, but with surfaces sloped enough to effectively deviate the antitank shots. These seem to not take effect in the newcomer. Slow, but constant, it continues advancing, and its cannon, one of 88 millimeters with the tube longer than usual, relentlessly hit the Russian tanks.

But during a counterattack several infantrymen manage to place themselves under the monstrous contraption, and some of them stay exposed to its frontal sector, immobilized by terror. The blood seems to freeze in the veins. It is the end. A brief machine gun burst will soon end these hallucinating moments. But the tank, like an undecided pachyderm that notices the prey but does not consider it worth of attention, continues advancing with the roar of its engine. The Russians look astonished and then they realize what has happened. The monster has no weapons for close defense. The tremendous tank destroyer is in front of the man not more than a relatively dangerous stupid beast. This discovery sentences the Jagdpanzer SdKfz 184, the weapon with which Hitler had expected to smash the armored elements of the Red Army. Soon, the Russian infantrymen learned its weak points and blind spots, so the "Elefant" had to be retired from the frontline.

Born by transformation of a heavy tank, the "Ferdinand" (so initially called, as tribute to its projectist, engineer Ferdinand Porsche) revealed itself from the beginning as a strange element. Rejected by the Army because of its excessively complex mechanics, it was thought then to convert it in a tank destroyer, replacing the turret by a casemate and enhancing the armor and armament. This one was the latest model of the 88-millimeter cannon, of 71 calibers in length, while by adding additional plates, the armor had been increased for a thickness of up to 20 centimeters. But it was not taken into account that for achieving the strongest tank destroyer, it had been made as well the heaviest one, which notably decreased its speed (from a maximum of 35 kilometers/hour to only 20).

Moreover, it had been also deprived from the close defense that a frontal machine gun provides, with the aforementioned consequences. When this fact become clear, a large number of "Elefant" (as the Ferdinand had been rebaptized) had been already destroyed. Immediately retired from the frontline, it would be equipped with a frontal machine gun (as the one in the illustration), but it would never become the weapon that Porsche had dreamed of. However, used in Italy to stop the Allied advance, it would achieve good results against the American tanks, in a war that would not be one of maneuvers, but of ambushes.

Year: 1943

Weight: 68 tonnes

Length: 8.14 meters

Width: 3.43 meters

Height: 2.97 meters

Ground clearance: 47 centimeters

Maximum armor: 200 millimeters

Engines: Two HL 120 TR of 320 horsepower

Maximum speed: 20 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 150 kilometers

Crew: 6

Armament: One 88-millimeter cannon; one 7.92-millimeter machine gun (not installed in the first models)

Ammunitions: 50 of 88 millimeters

Maximum surmountable trench: 3.20 meters

Maximum surmountable step: 0.79 meters

Maximum surmountable slope: 35 degrees

Fording: 1.20 meters

Also in Weapons of World War Two:

Macchi 202 FolgoreB-29 SuperfortressDouglas C 47 Dakota