Halftrack vehicles






Half track vehicles may affect somewhat strangely to the viewer of today. But these vehicles were typically for the appearance of the Wehrmacht during WW II. The combination of wheeled and tracked vehicles was chosen because one tried to combine the high road speed of the wheeled vehicles with the high pulling force of the tracked vehicles. Although the technology was very complicated the half-track vehicles proved very well. The German half-track vehicles were called Zugkraftwagen - abridged Zgkw. - what literally translated means pulling force vehicle. Typically for the German half-track vehicles were the non-driven front axle and the long track drive assembly. Except the s.W.S. and the Maultier series, all had smeared tracks with rubber track pads. Most types had torsion bar springs and crank arms - except early models of the 5 tons and 12 tons Zgkw. and the 8 tons Zgkw. and the Maultier series. Mainly, the half-track vehicles were used as towing vehicles for guns. Other loads were moved, too. Some types were used as recovery vehicles for motor vehicles and tanks.






List of the half-track vehicles which were developed during the 1930s:



leichter Zugkraftwagen 1t (Sd. Kfz. 10)






leichter Zugkraftwagen 3t (Sd. Kfz. 11)






mittlerer Zugkraftwagen 5t (Sd. Kfz. 6)






mittlerer Zugkraftwagen 8t (Sd. Kfz. 7)






schwerer Zugkraftwagen 12t (Sd. Kfz. 8)






schwerer Zugkraftwagen 18t (Sd. Kfz. 9)









The Kettenkraftrad - which literally translated means tracked motorcycle - the schwere Wehrmachtsschlepper (s.W.S.) - which stands for heavy Wehrmacht tractor - and the Maultier – which means mule - series were developed during WW II. About 8,700 to 9,000 exemplars of the Kettenkrad and at leats 832 exemplars of the s.W.S. were manufactured until the end of war.
Originally, the Maultier series was a development of the Waffen-SS. The division Das Reich had converted commercial 3 tons lorries with captured Carden Loyd track drive assemblies to half-track vehicles. Good experiences were made thereby. Different track drive assemblies were tested by several manufacturers during the develppment of a serial vehicle. Some manufacturers had better results with own developed track drive assemblies but due to standardization, all manufacturers had to use the same track drive assembly.  In 1942, the first 635 vehicles were manufactured. The Maultier was manufactured by Ford in 13,952 exemplars, Opel in approx. 3,400 exemplars and Magirus in 1,740 exemplars.
In 1943, the beginning of serial production of the s.W.S. delayed. To cover the demand for towing vehicles, a Maultier based on a 4.5 tons lorry was developed by Daimler Benz in a short time. The first 40 vehicles were delivered in August 1943. Altogether 1,486 4.5 tons Maultier vehicles were manufactured by Daimler Benz. Contrary to the 2 tons Maultier, the 4.5 tons Maultier had a modified track drive assembly of the Panzerkampfwagen II.
Mainly, the Maultier vehicles were used as transport and towing vehicles. A few of them were equipped with a standard box body and were used as ambulances. Some Maultier half track vehicles were used as self-propelled anti aircraft vehicles with 2 cm and 3.7 cm AA guns. One well-known photo shows a 7.5 cm Pak 97/38 installed on the platform of a Maultier. It was used as self-propelled anti tank gun.
The s.W.S. was developed as successor for the 5 tons and 8 tons Zgkw. At the end, it was only an additional series. The s.W.S. was manufactured with a simple wooden platform and as self propelled anti aircraft vehicle with makeshift armour. At least one prototype of a rocket launcher vehicle armed with a 15cm Panzerwerfer 42 was made. Contrary to the conventional Zgkw., it had not smeared tracks with larger width. The s.W.S. was slower than the Zgkw. Unfortunately, that often led to the loss of the towing vehicle and the trailed gun during withdrawal operations. Therefore, it was not liked by the soldiers.






List of the half-track vehicles which were developed during WW II:



kleines Kettenkraftrad (Sd. Kfz. 2)






Gleisketten Lastkraftwagen 2t, offen (Maultier) (Sd. Kfz. 3a) Opel Blitz 3,6-36 S/SSM






Gleisketten Lastkraftwagen 2t, offen (Maultier) (Sd. Kfz. 3b) Ford V 3000 S/SSM






Gleisketten Lastkraftwagen 2t, offen (Maultier) (Sd. Kfz. 3c) Klöckner-Deutz S 3000 SSM






Gleisketten Lastkraftwagen 4,5t (Maultier) (Sd. Kfz. 3/5) Mercedes Benz L 4500 R






Gleisketten Lastkraftwagen 2t gepanzert (Sd. Kfz. 4) (ammunition vehicle)






15cm Panzerwerfer 42 (Sf) auf Gleisketten Lastkraftwagen 2t (Sd. Kfz. 4/1)






schwerer Wehrmachtsschlepper (s.W.S.)









Besides Germany, other countries used half-track vehicles in their armies. But no other army used half track vehicles in such a variety and number than the Wehrmacht. Citroen Kegresse vehicles were far common. Beside France, these vehicles were used by Poland and Belgium. The half track vehicles of Somua and Unic were based on the Kegresse development, too.
The Soviet Union had a half-track vehicle on Kegresse basis, too. It was the ZIS-42. Especially during and after the west campaign in 1940, many of these half-track vehicles were taken over by the Wehrmacht. A whole series of armoured and not armoured special vehicles based on these half-track vehicles were manufactured for the Schnelle Brigade West - literally translated: fast brigade west. Others were used as towing vehicles for guns in the permanent posts of the German half-track vehicles.






List of the captured half-track vehicles:



Minerva-FN-Kegresse bzw. Zugkraftwagen P 302 (b)



Citroen P 19 bzw. Transportkraftwagen Ci 380 (f)



Somua MCG bzw. Zugkraftwagen S 307 (f)



Somua MCL bzw. Zugkraftwagen S 303 (f)



Unic TU 1 bzw. Zugkraftwagen U 305 (f)



Unic P 107 bzw. Zugkraftwagen U 304 (f)



ZIS 22 & 22M






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