Anti-tank Rockets - Second World War - Anti-tank Guns - Self-propelled Anti-tank Guns

Self-propelled Anti-tank Guns

Main article: Tank destroyer See also: Panzerjäger and Jagdpanzer

As towed anti-tank cannon guns grew in size and weight, they became less mobile and more cumbersome to maneuver, and required ever larger gun crews, who often had to wrestle the gun into position while under heavy artillery and/or tank fire. As the war progressed, this disadvantage often resulted in the loss or destruction of both the antitank gun and its trained crew. This gave impetus to the development of the self-propelled, lightly armored "tank destroyer" (TD). The tank destroyer was usually based on the hull of existing tank designs, using either a gun integrated into the hull or a fully rotating turret much like that of a conventional tank. These self-propelled (SP) AT guns were first employed as infantry support weapons in place of towed antitank guns. Later, due to a shortage of tanks, TDs sometimes replaced the former in offensive armored operations.

Early German-designed tank destroyers employed existing light French or Czech design tank chassis, installing an AT gun as part of an armored, turret-less superstructure. This method to reduced both weight and conversion costs. The Soviet Union later adopted this style of self-propelled anti-tank gun or tank destroyer. This type of tank destroyer had the advantage of a reduced silhouette, allowing the crew to more frequently fire from defilade ambush positions. Such designs were easier and faster to manufacture and offered good crew protection, though the lack of a turret limited the gun's traverse to a few degrees. This meant that if the TD became immobilized due to engine failure or track damage, it could not rotate its gun to counter opposing tanks, making it an easy target. This vulnerability was later exploited by opposing tank forces. Late in the war, it was not unusual to find even the largest and most powerful tank destroyer abandoned on the field after a battle, having been immobilized by a single high explosive shell to the track or front drive sprocket.

US Army pre-war infantry support doctrines emphasized the use of tank destroyers with open-top fully rotating turrets, featuring less armor than the standard M4 Sherman tanks, but with more powerful cannon. A 76 mm long-barrel tank cannon was fitted to the M10 and M18 designs. Late in 1944, the M36 appeared, equipped with a 90 mm cannon. With rotating turrets and good combat maneuverability, American TD designs generally worked well, although their light armor was no match for enemy tank cannon fire during one on one confrontations. Another disadvantage proved to be the open, unprotected turret, and casualties from artillery fire soon led to the introduction of folding armor turret covers. Near the war's end, a change in official doctrine caused both the self-propelled tank destroyer and the towed antitank gun to fall from favor in U.S. service, increasingly replaced by conventional tanks or infantry level antitank weapons. Despite this change, the M36 tank destroyer continued in service, and was used in combat as late as the Korean War.

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Second World War - Anti-tank Guns - Self-propelled Anti-tank Guns
... Panzerjäger and Jagdpanzer As towed anti-tank cannon guns grew in size and weight, they became less mobile and more cumbersome to maneuver, and required ever larger gun crews, who often had ... often resulted in the loss or destruction of both the antitank gun and its trained crew ... This gave impetus to the development of the self-propelled, lightly armored "tank destroyer" (TD) ...

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