The German tank destroyers: the Nashorn

(To Francesco Sisto)

The German armored personnel carrier rhino (rhinoceros) was one of the most important tank destroyers used in the Second World War.

According to the technicians it constituted a sort of transition between “the classic self-propelled 88mm gun and later heavily armored tank destroyers”1.

It should be emphasized that the same hull used for the "Rhinoceros" was used to create the self-propelled artillery Bumblebee with 150 mm fire mouth.

German war industry in World War II globally manufactured about 494 rhino and more than 700 Bumblebee.

Il rhino was born, essentially, from the need to have a Panzerjager capable of countering even more effectively the Soviet tanks (in particular the T-34 and KV-1 switch).

The German vehicle was developed and set up around 1942 on a hull "derived" from medium tanks Panzer III e IV. However, the hull had a different location, since the propulsion system was moved to the front.

The movement system of the tracks was that of the wagon IV, with 8 small wheels on each side, and 4 upper idlers, also on each side.

The arrangement of the gun (88 mm) was in an open casemate at the top and placed in the rear area of ​​the hull. The casemate protection was considerably less thick than that of the hull and did not exceed 10mm thick.

However, the gun was considered - according to the technicians of the time - the most powerful in its category (among those in production).

The armored vehicle presented critical issues: maneuvering difficulties and slowness on the ground, despite the installation of special wide tracks for use on mud and snow; little possibility of moving the gun horizontally and a lack of protection for the crew.

The vehicle was initially called hornet (bumblebee); a short time later, however, he was renamed rhino (apparently at the behest of Hitler).

The baptism of fire for the German tank destroyer took place in the battle of Kursk (July 5-August 23, 1943), and it distinguished itself.

During the war the vehicle was assigned to the heavy anti-tank battalions; The rhino it operated on almost all war theaters (particularly the eastern front and Italy).

It should be remembered that on March 6, 1945 a rhino managed to knock out a US (heavy, ed) tank M26 Pershing – in Niehl in Germany – at a distance of almost 270 meters.

The vehicle was later "replaced" by the tank destroyer Jagdpanzer V Jagdpanther.

Il rhino weighed 24 tons. Her length was 8,44 m, width 2,95 m and height 2,65 m.

The armored vehicle could count on a crew of 5 men.

The height from the ground 40 cm. The maximum speed was 42 km/h. Engine power was 296/300 HP.

The thickness of the frontal armor was 30 mm, while the side armor was 20 mm.

The armament consisted of 1 x 88mm cannon and 7,92mm machine guns.

1 See C. Falessi and B. Pafi, The Nashorn, in Illustrated History n°148, 1970, p.111

Photo: web