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15cm Schwere Panzerhaubitze auf Fahrgestell Panzer III/IV (Sf) "Hummel"

History: To provide armoured units with artillery support on an armoured fully-tracked chassis, the WaA (the Waffenamt) had proposed that the 10,5cm IeFH be mounted on the Panzer III and IV chassis.  On 25 July 1942, it was decided to mount the 15cm sFH on the Panzer III and IV chassis, since the Panzer II chassis was acceptable as a mount for the IeFH.  Alkett was entrusted with the development of the vehicle, and presented a prototype to Hitler in October 1943.  The Hummel (bumble-bee) was to be a more "Zwischenlösung" (interim solution) until chassis designed specifically as self-propelled gun-platforms could be developed and produced.  By 12 May 1943,  100 Hummel were to be built for use in the planned summer offensive.   On the same chassis, 157 Munitions Fahrzeuge (ammunition carriers) were produced to provide ammunition for the Hummel batteries.
Specific features: The Panzer III/IV chassis used a lengthened Panzer IV hull as the basic design, but with the motor moved forward to a central position.  It retained the basic suspension of the Panzer IV except for the spacing between components.  The drive sprocket was of the type designed for the Panzer III.  The open-topped fighting compartment was enclosed on all four sides by slanted armour plates bolted to the hull.  The glacis plate was extended, and a small compartment for the driver was fitted to it on the left-hand side.  The Hummel produced early 1944, had a crew compartment for the driver and radio operator, extending across the full width of the hull.  The 15cm sFH18/1 was mounted in the middle over the engine, and this gave the vehicle a very high silhouette.  The Munitions Fahrzeuge varied from the Hummel by having a plate bolted over the front of the superstructure to close the gap normally fitted by the gun and its shield, and its internal stowage was different.
Combat service: The Hummel were issued to the heavy batteries of the armoured artillery detachments (SP) of several Panzer divisions early in 1943, and first saw action at Kursk.  Initially, each Panzer division had only six Hummel in a single battery, then, two Munitions Fahrzeuge were added and, later, Panzer divisions received a second heavy battery.



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