A child of war. The PanzerschreckJanuary 16, 2019
A child of war. The history of the Panzerschreck
is fascinating since it was developed as an entirely new weapon system and fielded in less than 6 months. The following text was printed in the “Von der Front für die Front” issued on 6 June 1944 by the Oberkommando des Heeres
Important notes about the Panzerschreck (Ofenrohr)
The following has been reported by the Heereswaffenamt: With the fielding of the R Pz B 54 (also called Ofenrohr) a huge amount of suggestions for improvements of the weapon has been received from the units. The Panzerschreck is a “child of war”. The development of the weapon had to be done very fast, in order to give the units a simple but good weapon to fight against tanks as fast as possible. To avoid a delay in the distribution of the weapon certain shortcomings is the price to pay. The need for a gasmask in order to protect the firer from the rearward flying powder particles during the firing is just one example.
Development and history
By 1943 the pre-war anti-tank rifles had all gone out of fashion as their combat value was all gone. The same was happening to the towed Anti-Tank guns, which were heavy, cumbersome and slow to move, expensive and just not very efficient at all. They all fired a standard Armour Piercing (AP) round that depended on the mass-energy (weight of projectile combined with velocity) to break through armour. Development of the tanks showing up on the battlefield in 1943 had taken this into consideration, and thicker armour combined with sloping sides made it a tough job to kill a tank with an AT gun or a PAK (Panzer Abwehr Kanone). The shaped-charge principle was well known at the time, and the Germans used it for demolition charges and magnetic anti-tank charges. It was not possible to use in a grenade delivered from a rifled barrel though, as the spin of the grenade needed to stabilize it in its flight would remove the effect of the shaped-charge when it impacted. In late 1942/early 1943 German engineers developed a new AT weapon that would use the shaped-charge principle in a High Explosive Anti-Tank (HEAT) fin-stabilized grenade propelled by a rocket motor. The system developed was called the Raketenwerfer 43, “Puppchen”. It fired a HEAT grenade from a closed breech and was mounted on a carriage that could help absorb the recoil
The tube launched a 3.3-kg (7.25-pound) rocket-propelled grenade
The Panzerschreck consisted of a a steel tube about 1.5 metres (5 feet) long that weighed about 9 kg (20 pounds). The tube was open at both ends and was fitted with a hand grip, a trigger mechanism, and sights. The tube launched a 3.3-kg (7.25-pound) rocket-propelled grenade with a diameter of 8.8 cm (3.5 inches). After loading the rocket in the tube and aiming the weapon at the target, the operator successively pulled two firing triggers, the first to cock the tube’s ignition systemand the second to fire it, thereby generating a small electrical current that ignited the rocket’s motor. The operator was protected from the rocket’s backblast by holding the tube on his shoulder with about half the tube protruding behind him. The rocket’s low speed in flight meant that the Panzerschreck’s maximum effective range was about 150 metres (500 feet). The rocket carried a powerful hollow-charge explosive that could penetrate 210 mm (8.25 inches) of armour, thicker than that of any Allied tank.
German nickname of Ofenrohr (Stovepipe). The caliber was selected simply because 88mm hollow charge warheads were already in production for launching from the R-Werfer 43 but with rockets for the RPzB 43 there was a difference. Having noted that the American M6 HEAT rocket was ignition method was altered accordingly, resulting in the RPzBGr 4322 weighing 3.25kg (7.2lb). However the Germans decided not to adopt the battery-powered ignition circuitry rapidly developing and adopting a magneto-driven ignition method. It is interesting to note that the Americans later adopted a magneto ignition system for their M9/M9A1 launchers.
M1 Bazooka in Tunisa
The unexpected advent of the M1 Bazooka in Tunisa made a considerable impact on the German military establishment. Not only did the Bazooka concept present a considerable danger to German armor but the simplicity, low cost and potential of the launchers design made a great impression. The immediate result was the abandonment of the R-Werfer 43 in favor of the novel Bazooka rocket delivery system. Within weeks the first examples of the 88mm (3.4in) Raketenpanzerbüchse43 (88mm RPzB 43) were coming off the HASAG production line at Meuselwitz. Most R-Werfer 43’s already produced were sent to Tunisia or Italy and were soon forgotten or lost in action. Many were diverted and placed among the defensive works covering the Normandy beaches as part of the Atlantic Wall defenses.
The weight of a loaded 88mm RPzB 43 was 9.5kg (20.9lb). Amour penetration performance remained as before ie 160mm (6.24in) of amour plate set at an angle of 60°. The length of the RPzB 43 (1.64m) meant that to handle it effectively called for a team of two, one acting as the loader and carrying five ready-use rockets on a special backpack frame. Only when a target approached was a rocket loaded into the rear of the launching tube where it was held by a retaining catch and connected by the loader to the firing circuit via two thin wires. The firer used simple fixed sights for aiming and cocked the firing arrangements by pulling back a spring-loaded lever. Operating the trigger produced a current for a primer to ignite the rocket motor and launch the rocket.
masters of concealment and stealth
RPzB 43 teams had to be masters of concealment and stealth for the practical range of the RPzBGr 4322 rocket was a maximum of 150m (492ft). Combat ranges were frequently considerable less. A trained team could launch four or five rockets in one minute. Panzerschreck warheads were also highly effective against field fortifications or buildings during fighting in built up areas.
The RPzB 43 was very rapidly accepted into service and soon became the preferred portable anti-tank weapon for infantry formations. By 1944 the weapon was so well integrated that each infantry regiment had an establishment of 36 held by the regimental anti-tank company, along with three 75mm (2.9in) Pak 40 towed anti-tank guns. The so-called Volksgrenadier infantry regiments of the latter war years were meant to have a planned 72 Panzerschrecken.
By mid-1944 the RPzB 43 was well into the process of being withdrawn from front line units in favor of the improved 88mm (3.4in) RPzB 54. The RPzB.54 Panzerschreck antitank rocket launcher differs from the Ofenrohr primary by addition of the protective steel shield with aiming glass window, which protects shooter’s face and hands from rocket back blast. Another improvement is more elaborate sight, which allows for better windage, temperature and range adjustments, as well as the addition of 4 steel flutes which run the length of the barrel and increased strength.
By 1944 the Panzerschreck series had already become so important that production was in progress in seven centers and many others were concerned with sub assemblies. The simplicity of the RPzB 54 and its lack of demand for critical raw materials or manufacturing resources were such that it became an integral weapon in the German effort.
Jager Hobby is pleased to bring a 1/16 German Paratrooper armed with the formidable Panzerschrek and also a 1/16 Panzerschrek