The Sd.Kfz.222

Leichter Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 222

The Leichter Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 222 or roughly translated ‘Light Armoured Vehicle Model 222’ was part of a series of light 4 x 4 armoured reconnaissance ‘Aufklärungs’ vehicles, designated ‘Sd.Kfz. 221, 222 & 223’ produced by Germany between 1935 to 1944.

Because of the restrictions imposed on Germany as part of the Versailles treaty after World War One normal military research suffered greatly to the extent that the Germans were forced into development of arms not covered by the treaty as a means of military advancement. Thus the development of armoured wheeled vehicles gained somewhat more focus in Germany than might have otherwise if it was not for the treaty. The first examples of armoured vehicles used by the German forces in the inter-war period were the Kfz.13 and Kfz.14 (radio variant). Based on a ‘Standard 6’ chassis built at the Adler Werks in Frankfurt with the superstructure made by Deutsche Edelstahl AG in Hannover from 8mm steel plate. Production ran from 1932 to 1934 with some 147 units being produced.Leichter Panzerspähwagen Sd.Kfz. 222
By the mid 1930’s design began on a more suitable vehicle for Germanys ever growing armed forces renamed the Wehrmacht by this time under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. The first vehicle model in the series designated the Sd.Kfz. 221, used the Horch Werke designed sPkw1 Horch 801 heavy car chassis with a rear mounted 75 horsepower Horch 3.5 litre V8 petrol engine as the base. It was developed by Eisenwerk Weserhütte of Bad Oeynhausen and the chassis were built by Auto Union in Zwickau and assembled by F. Schichau of Elbing and Maschinenfabrik Niedersachsen in Hannover, using an angled V shaped welded steel plate armoured body and turret to provide the necessary crew protection against small arms fire, for the role which the vehicle was originally intended for. The first production vehicles were delivered in 1935 having met all the German high command requirements. Armed only with a single 7.92 mm Maschinengewehr MG34 machine gun and manned by a two-man crew, this lack of firepower quickly became a recognised issue as it soon became all to apparent that this vehicle would need to defend it’s self against enemy reconnaissance units or well defended forward military elements. To cope with this expected danger the designers took the ‘221’ base model and up gunned the design making changes to the upper hull structure to allow the fitting of a KwK30 20mm Flak Cannon design and built by Rheinmetall along with the existing MG34 to deal with any potential problems encountered on the battle field and thus the Sd.Kfz. 222 was born. The ‘222’ was developed using a slightly larger and stronger Horch chassis II mounting a 81 bhp V8 Horch engine, with production being sited at Weserhuette, Schichau, MHN and Buessing-NAG.

Built with 4WD drive, 4WD steering and coil suspension it was ideally suited to the barren terrain of the Russian steppes encountered on the Eastern front. With a short wave radio fitted to each vehicle for short-range communications and an extra seat for a third crewman the 222 proved a very capable vehicle both on and off road. Between the years 1936 to 1943 some 989 examples were built.

The early Sd.Kfz. 222 variant [Model/Ausf A] is recognisable in service by several minor features; A two piece bolted together welded steel plate armoured hull [flange offset from the centre section], lack of exterior grab/hand rails, equally sized drivers vision ports, the installation of the KwK30 Flak Cannon along with the low anti grenade wire mesh screens and hub protection plates.

Modifications to the design were inevitable and this culminated in the later war time variant [Model/Ausf B] recognisable by the change to a three section welded armoured steel hull that bolted together [offset from the centre section and rear engine section], an up rated engine to 3.8 litres 90 bhp. Enlarged vision slot for the driver and the addition of exterior grab/hand rails. Changes to the wire mesh cage over the turret were enlarged to give a higher profile to complement the new hanging anti aircraft mount, allowing the improved KwK38 20mm Flak Cannon now being retro fitted to some service models and to all vehicles on the assembly line for a increased anti aircraft role.

The Sd.Kfz. 222 intended role as a reconnaissance vehicle proved well suited, however with the current armament arrangement only a short range radio could be fitted, necessitating in another accompanying vehicle to be fitted with a long range radio to be able to relay tactical information gathered by the forward reconnaissance vehicles back to divisional headquarters. It was for this role that the third vehicle in the series designated Sd.Kfz. 223, went into production with some 550 units being assembled, between 1935-1944. Armed with one MG 34, intended for self-defence, mounted in a small turret not unlike the 221 versions. With additional radio equipment installed usually a FuG.19SE30 or later the FuG.12, coupled with a large "bed-frame" type antenna that was fitted over the vehicle. However it was found that this type of antenna was rather cumbersome in operational use and was later replaced by a star/pole antenna.

Other more dedicated radio and command vehicles were based on the Sd.Kfz. 223 hulls, these included for example the Sd.Kfz. 260 and 261 versions, both these variants omitted the turrets completely and were fitted with various antennas and additional radio equipment with some 500 units being completed by 1944.

These so called ‘Horch Wagons’ a term used affectionately by the troops were eventually replaced by ¾-tracked vehicles such as the Sd.Kfz. 250/9 ‘Schützenpanzerwagen’ deemed to cope better with the muddy conditions faced by the Army fighting in Russia. However these tracked vehicles incurred higher production and materials costs and required labour intensive maintenance once in the field and operationally they made far more noise and were slower than their wheeled counterparts, giving the enemy advanced warning of their impending approach. Given all this, one certainly has to question the logic behind the decision to replace these much loved series of wheeled armoured vehicles with a far more costlier vehicle in a war of attrition that was stretching an already over stretched Germany.

Technical Data: Sd.Kfz. 222

Engine Type: Horch V8 3.5 Litre [3.8] @ 66 Degrees
Gearbox: Horch 5 Speed forward, 1 reverse
Speed: 80-90 kph
Range 350 km
Wheel Size: 210 x 18 All terrain
Wheelbase: 2800mm
Ground clearance 260mm
Overall length: 4800mm
Overall height: 2000mm
Overall width: 1950mm
Armaments: 1x 7.92mm MG34 1x KwK30/38 20mm Rheinmetall Flak Cannon

Project 'Sd.Kfz.222 - follow the progress of a GD Aufklarungs members project to build a replica 222

Article submitted by Simon Garner.
Sd.Kfz.222 illustration by Neil Barlow.

 

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