Assault gun

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Abandoned Assault Guns III after a bomb attack, followed by American GIs

Assault guns are equipped with artillery stocked full-track armored vehicles of the storm artillery . They were developed in Germany in the 1930s as a support weapon for the infantry and used in World War II .

In contrast to the classic battle tanks equipped with a combat vehicle cannon (short: KwK , today Panzerkanone ) , assault guns have an assault cannon (short: StuK ), which is not housed in a rotating turret, but firmly connected to the hull in a flat structure, which is the Significantly restricts the ability of the weapon to pivot sideways, but also brings advantages (low silhouette , lower weight, easier production).

The terms assault guns , tank destroyers and tank destroyers are often used interchangeably, but seldom storm howitzer , although these vehicle types differ significantly in terms of structure and purpose.

Assault guns were originally pure infantry support tanks . According to their design, they are also known as casemate armor.

During the Second World War, the uses were divided into armored tank destroyers with tank destroyers for anti-tank purposes and the actual assault guns for direct fire support of the infantry in defense and in the attack against infantry, in particular for combating bunker positions that were only partially suitable for anti-tank purposes, as well as in the armored mobile artillery with self-propelled howitzers or mechanized cannons. All of them (with the exception of the tank destroyers) showed an overlap in their capabilities in terms of anti-tank, fighting infantry and artillery fire fighting.

Pipe length and angle group

These types of weapons (tank destroyer vs. assault gun) can be clearly distinguished based on the barrel length of their cannons, see the table in Kampfwagenkanone . Impact projectiles need the highest possible speed to penetrate the armor ; this can be achieved with a suitable propellant charge and the longest possible tube.

For example, the PzKpfw IV, Ausf. AF , which were equipped with the 7.5 cm KwK 37 (tube length: 180.0 cm, called "stub"), were not designed to fight (more strongly) armored targets (with bullets) suitable; they were originally intended for fighting infantry (as well as weakly armored targets). The PzKpfw IV, Ausf. F2 / G equipped with the 7.5 cm KwK 40 (tube length 322.5 cm) , on the other hand, were used to fight heavily armored targets.

However, other types of armor-piercing projectiles also manage with short barrels, which were also used to fire projectiles for fighting infantry.

(Tank) mortars and (tank) howitzers have higher angles of attack (see angle group ) than assault guns.


Assault Gun IV

In order to be able to fulfill its main task - fighting down enemy positions that are difficult to perceive from a distance - the assault gun had to approach the enemy main battle line, the commander had to locate pockets of resistance based on his own observation and fight them directly ( i.e. with flat fire ). This resulted in the following specifications for the construction:

  • Sufficient all-round armor to withstand enemy infantry fire (rifles, machine guns, hand grenades).
  • Off-road mobility
  • Main weapon with great effect against soft targets.
  • Low silhouette, which should not tower over an upright, own infantryman.

The result was an armored full-track vehicle, which was only 1.96 m high and thus about half a meter lower than a Panzer III (height 2.45 m for version B / C). The same gun was chosen as the gun that was used in the first versions of the Panzer IV . This 7.5 cm assault cannon (StuK 37 L / 24) had a relatively short barrel length, which led to a low projectile speed and, associated with this, to poor penetration performance of the balancing projectiles . The installation of a turret that could be rotated 360 degrees was dispensed with in the assault guns, as was the installation of a machine gun as a secondary weapon. The choice of a short-barreled gun was to prove to be disadvantageous in the later years - when fighting with enemy tanks became more frequent.

The Sturmgeschütz III was the most frequently produced full-track armored vehicle of the entire war on the German side with around 10,500 units. In addition, around 1100 IV assault guns were produced from the end of December 1943 until the end of the war .

Deployment tactics

A Sturmgeschütz III in the battle for Stalingrad

When deployed, the assault guns should proceed at the same height as their own infantrymen and eliminate any pockets of resistance that have been identified by direct fire. A rushing ahead of the assault guns was just as little intended as a - technically quite possible - action from the depths of the combat area by means of long-range shots.

Since there was no rotating turret, it was necessary in combat operations to first roughly align the entire vehicle with the target to be attacked and then to fine-tune the cannon using hand cranks.

In the course of the war, the focus of operations shifted to tank hunting, and the penetration rate was increased accordingly in the period from 1941 to 1945 by using more powerful combat vehicle cannons. A thicker armor and an optimization of the shape ( pot cover ) have reduced the sensitivity to fire. In addition to their use in infantry divisions, the reworked assault guns were now also assigned to tank divisions - as a replacement for classic battle tanks. Although since 1943, at the latest, the focus of operation was clearly in the field of anti-tank combat and a name change to " Jagdpanzer " was therefore an option , the designation assault gun was retained.

How much the original concept of the assault gun had changed can also be seen from the fact that the German side tried to return to its original purpose with the construction of the Sturmhaubitze 42 .


If a chain was destroyed in an assault gun, it was still conditionally fit for action, since turning around the vertical axis (and thus the orientation of the gun) was still possible through the other chain, only the marching ability was lost. It was only incapable of fighting if both tracks were destroyed.


  • Low silhouette, which made the vehicle easier to camouflage, harder to see and harder to hit.
  • Lower manufacturing price than a main battle tank , as an expensive rotating turret was dispensed with and a simple box-shaped structure was used instead. This enabled the vehicle to be built faster and with less raw material consumption. The cost savings of the Sturmgeschütz III compared to the Kampfpanzer III were around 20%.
  • Extensive standardization of the engine and chassis components with the Panzer III, thereby simplified maintenance and spare parts supply.
  • With the same armor and armament, it was lighter and therefore more off-road than the main battle tank, or could be armored and armed more heavily without overloading the chassis.


  • Due to the lack of a turret, assault guns were clearly disadvantaged due to the restricted side straightening area, especially in house-to-house combat .

Other nations

The Soviet Union had already experimented with the concept of the self-propelled gun in 1939 and had already used a prototype in the Soviet-Finnish winter war , which was, however, designated as a naval self-propelled gun ( SU-100U ). Due to the war experience after the German invasion in 1941, assault guns ( SU-122 , ISU-122 , SU-152 , ISU 152 ) and tank destroyers ( SU-85 , SU-100 ) were produced on a larger scale from 1942 . More modern descendants are the airborne ASU-57 and ASU-85 .

Based on the German model, assault guns based on tank chassis were also manufactured in Italy ( Semovente 75/18 ), Hungary ( 43M Zrinyi ) and Sweden ( Stormartillerivagn m / 43 ). With the Western Allies, however, the concept could not prevail. The USA and Great Britain instead used tanks ( Matilda , Churchill , M8 Scott and variants of the M4 Sherman armed with 105 mm guns ) and light self-propelled guns ( M3 75/105 mm GMC ) for infantry support . This tendency continued in the post-war period. B. in the M551 Sheridan .


Web links

Commons : Sturmgeschütz  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Sturmgeschütz  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Alexander Lüdeke, Waffentechnik im Second World War , page 80, Parragon Books Ltd. ISBN 978-14054-8584-5 .
  2. ^ Battle tanks - data, facts, technology, page 45, Moewig Verlag ISBN 3-8118-1662-4 .
  3. ^ Sturmgeschütz III - Der Panzer der Infanterie from the series Das Waffenarsenal , published by Podzun Verlag, pages 4, 19 and 46, ISBN 3-7909-0170-9 .