Nashorn initially known as Hornisse (German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

Hornets are the largest eusocial wasps; some species can reach up to in length. The true hornets make up the genus Vespa and are distinguished from other vespines by the width of the vertex , which is proportionally larger in Vespa and by the anteriorly rounded gasters .- Life cycle :In...

"), was a German
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 tank destroyer
Tank destroyer
A tank destroyer is a type of armored fighting vehicle armed with a gun or missile launcher, and is designed specifically to engage enemy armored vehicles...

 of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. It was developed as an interim solution in 1942 and was armed with the outstanding Pak 43 anti-tank gun. Though only lightly armoured and with a high profile, it stayed in service until the end of the war and proved to be a quite successful tank destroyer.


After the first German experiences with the newer Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 tanks like the T-34
The T-34 was a Soviet medium tank produced from 1940 to 1958. Although its armour and armament were surpassed by later tanks of the era, it has been often credited as the most effective, efficient and influential design of World War II...

 or the Kliment Voroshilov tank
Kliment Voroshilov tank
The Kliment Voroshilov tanks were a series of Soviet heavy tanks, named after the Soviet defense commissar and politician Kliment Voroshilov. The KV series were known for their extremely heavy armour protection during the early war, especially during the first year of the invasion of the Soviet...

 during Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

, the need for a Panzerjäger
Panzerjäger was a branch of service of the Wehrmacht during the Second World War which were the anti-tank arm-of-service who operated anti-tank artillery, and made exclusive use of the tank destroyers which were also named Panzerjäger...

capable of destroying these heavily armoured tanks became clear.

In February 1942, the Alkett (Altmärkische Kettenwerke GmbH) arms firm of Berlin designed a tank destroyer using their recently developed Geschützwagen III/IV which as its name indicated used components of both the Panzer III
Panzer III
Panzer III was the common name of a medium tank that was developed in the 1930s by Germany and was used extensively in World War II. The official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen III translating as "armoured battle vehicle". It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and...

 and Panzer IV
Panzer IV
The Panzerkampfwagen IV , commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a medium tank developed in Nazi Germany in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz...

 tank. The 8,8 cm Panzerabwehrkanone 43/1 L/71 (or shortly Pak 43/1) , a long-barreled anti-tank gun, was mounted on the rear of the chassis complete with its gun shield and an open-topped superstructure was built up around the gun to give the crew some protection. The gun had the same traverse and elevation as if it had been on its carriage: 15° to either side and between -5° to +15° elevation. To accommodate the long and heavy gun, the hull had to be lengthened and the engine moved from the rear to the centre of the chassis. Weight considerations meant that the amount of armour which could be used for the fighting compartment was limited, the crew were only protected from blast and small arms.

This model was presented for approval to Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 in October 1942 and entered production in early 1943. It had numerous official designations, such as 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III/IV (Sf) or 8,8cm Pak43 (L/71) auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sd. Kfz. 164), though it was also known as the Panzerjäger Hornisse (in English "armor hunter hornet")

During the first half of 1943, a new model of the Hornisse was introduced into production. This model altered the driver's front armour plate, along with other petty differences. The difference between this model and its predecessor, the few early production vehicles, were almost indistinguishable. It was renamed Nashorn by Hitler in 1944.

Total production of the Hornisse/Nashorn amounted to some 494 vehicles, of which most were built in 1943. Since January 1944 Germany favored the production of the newer tank destroyer, the Jagdpanzer IV
Jagdpanzer IV
The Jagdpanzer IV, Sd.Kfz. 162, was a tank destroyer based on the Panzer IV chassis built in three main variants. As one of the casemate-style turretless Jagdpanzer designs, it was developed against the wishes of Heinz Guderian, the inspector general of the Panzertruppen, as a replacement for the...

, which had a much thicker armor (60 mm frontal plate) if a less powerful 7.5 cm gun. Production of Nashorn continued, though at a slow pace, into 1945.

There are two Nashorns on display in military museums: at the United States Army Ordnance Museum
United States Army Ordnance Museum
The U.S. Army Ordnance Museum is a museum that is in the process of being re-located to Fort Lee, in Fort Lee, Virginia. Its previous building—at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland—was closed in September 2010, although many outdoor exhibits are still accessible to the...

  and at the Kubinka Tank Museum
Kubinka Tank Museum
The Kubinka Tank Museum is a large museum of armoured fighting vehicles in Kubinka, just outside Moscow. It has many famous tanks from World War I, World War II and the Cold War. The museum also houses many unique vehicles, such as the Panzer VIII Maus, Troyanov super-heavy tank and a Karl-Gerät...


Combat service

The Hornisse/Nashorn was issued to the heavy antitank battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

s (schwere Panzerjäger-Abteilungen), with which six would eventually be equipped: schwere Panzerjäger Abteilung 560, 655, 525, 93, 519 and 88. Each battalion was equipped with 45 Nashorns.

Nashorn's gun was a variant of Pak 43, one of the most effective anti-tank guns deployed during the war and closely related to guns used later for Ferdinand/Elefant
The Elefant was a "schwerer Panzerjäger" of the German Wehrmacht used in small numbers in World War II. It was built in 1943 under the name Ferdinand, after its designer Ferdinand Porsche. In 1944, after modification of the existing vehicles, they were renamed Elefant...

, Tiger II
Tiger II
Tiger II is the common name of a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B,Panzerkampfwagen – abbr: Pz. or Pz.Kfw. Ausführung – abbr: Ausf. .The full titles Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf...

, and Jagdpanther
The Jagdpanther was a tank destroyer built by Nazi Germany during World War II based on the chassis of the Panther tank. It entered service late in the war and saw service on the Eastern and Western fronts...

. Its tungsten carbide
Tungsten carbide
Tungsten carbide is an inorganic chemical compound containing equal parts of tungsten and carbon atoms. Colloquially, tungsten carbide is often simply called carbide. In its most basic form, it is a fine gray powder, but it can be pressed and formed into shapes for use in industrial machinery,...

–cored sub-calibre round, Pzgr. 40/43, was capable of penetrating 190 mm of rolled steel armour at a 30° angle of impact at a distance of 1,000 m. The gun's tremendous performance enabled Nashorn to penetrate the front plating of any Allied armoured vehicle and to engage enemy while staying out of range themselves.

The Hornisse/Nashorn made its debut during the Battle of Kursk
Battle of Kursk
The Battle of Kursk took place when German and Soviet forces confronted each other on the Eastern Front during World War II in the vicinity of the city of Kursk, in the Soviet Union in July and August 1943. It remains both the largest series of armored clashes, including the Battle of Prokhorovka,...

, where they performed well. The ability to engage the enemy at long distances negated the disadvantages of light armour and a high profile and revealed the weapon was suited to the open, flat landscape of much of Russia.


Sd.Kfz. 164 Nashorn
Front Side Rear Top/Bottom
Turret/Gun Shield 10–15 mm (0.393700787401575–0.590551181102362 in)/30°

Superstructure 15 mm (0.590551181102362 in)/70° 10 mm (0.393700787401575 in)/15° 10 mm (0.393700787401575 in)/10° 10 mm (0.393700787401575 in)
Hull 30 mm (1.2 in)/12° 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in)/0° 20 mm (0.78740157480315 in)/21° 15 mm (0.590551181102362 in)

Technical data

  • Manufacturer: Deutsche-Eisenwerke AG, in Teplitz-Schönau
  • Crew: 4 or 5
  • Combat weight: 24 metric tons
  • Dimensions
    • Length (with gun): 8.44 m
    • Length (without gun): 7.26 m
    • Width: 2.95 m, 3.176 m with 'Ostketten' tracks
    • Height: 2.65 m
    • Ground clearance: 0.4 m
  • Road speed: 42 km/h
  • Road range: 235 km
  • Tracks: 61/400/120 kg
    • Type: single pin
    • Width: 400 mm
    • Ground contact length: 3.80 m
    • Shoes(links)/track: 104
    • Ground pressure: 0.85 kg/cm²
  • Suspension: leaf spring
  • Shock absorbers: no
  • Vertical obstacle: 0.6 m
  • Trench: 2.3 m
  • Fording: 0.8 m
  • Engine: Maybach HL 120 TRM Ausf. A
    • Type: V-12 60 deg
    • Horsepower: 300 PS @ 3000 rpm
    • Displacement: 11,867 l
    • Comression ratio: 6.2-6.5:1
    • Fuel: gasoline
    • Fuel consumption (road): 2 l/km
    • Fuel capacity: 470 l (two fuel tanks)
  • Transmission: ZF (Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen AG) SSG 77 Aphon
    • Type: synchromesh manual
    • Gears: 6/1
  • Steering: Daimler-Benz/Wilson clutch/brake
  • Clutch: Fichtel & Sachs La 120 HDA dry, triple disc
  • Armament
    • Main gun: 88 mm Pak 43/1
    • Type: Anti-tank gun
    • Caliber: 88 mm
    • Barrel length: 71 calibers
    • Breech: semiautomatic, horizontal sliding block
    • Traverse: manual, +/-15°
    • Elevation: manual, +20/-5°
    • Rounds carried: 24 to 40
    • one 7.92 x 57 mm MG-34 or MG-42 machine-gun carried inside the vehicle
    • appr. 600 rounds
  • Primary gun sight: Sfl. Z. F. 1a (Selbstfahrlafetten-Zielfernrohr)
    • Magnification: 5x
    • Field of view: 8°
  • Indirect fire sight: Aushilfsrichtmittel 38
    • Magnification: 3x
    • Field of view: 10°
  • Radio: FuG Spr. f

External links

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