Sturmtiger

Some AFVs look like something right out of Looney Toons, perhaps none more so than the German Sturmtiger.

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Let’s take a look at an armored monster.

As the name suggests, the Sturmtiger was a development of the Tiger I.  Its official designation was Sturmmorserwagen 606/4 mit 38 cm RW61…   So we’ll stick with “Sturmtiger”.

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There’s a 7.92 mm MG34 in the front for defense.  A defensive grenade thrower was mounted on some Sturmtigers.  

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Holes around the barrel are for exhausting rocket gasses.  Obviously they couldn’t vent into the crew compartment!  And they would generate enough pressure to burst the barrel if simply allowed to build behind the outgoing round. Like all mortars, the high angle weapon allows for dropping explosives on the inside edge of a wall or into a trench.

The original idea was for a building destroyer used by combat engineers.  But the Battle for Stalingrad revealed limitations in existing hardware for this.  Mostly this took the form of a Stug III with a heavy howitzer.  A Sturmpanzer IV was also built, that put a heavy gun on a Panzer IV chassis.  But it always seemed to be the German way to build bigger and more ridiculous.  The Wehrmacht decided it needed something with a huge gun, and enough armor to resist current anti-tank weapons, obviously that meant something on the Tiger platform.

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The first gun considered was a 210 mm howitzer, but this gun did not become available.  So they looked at something new, a 38 cm rocket launcher that was developed from a navy depth charge thrower.  This is a huge weapon.  38 cm for Americans is about 16 inch; that’s like a battleship gun.  Now before I get too outrageous about this I need to go back to mentioning its from a depth charge thrower.  So the warhead was up to 800 lbs, about half of the comparable naval artillery.  It could fire high explosive or shaped charges, this was still about destroying buildings.
The weapon is a breach loading rocket launcher.  Velocity and accuracy are considerably less than a more conventional gun.  Only 14 rounds could be carried internally, which is why a crane is permanently mounted to the superstructure.  Loading ammunition was a continuous process in combat.  An armored ammunition transport also derived from the Tiger chassis was designed, but only one was built.  18 Sturmtigers were built by the end of 1944, I think these were all new construction (not conversions).

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The Stug III was the most common sort of infantry support vehicle.  In some ways, the Sturmtiger is just a big Stug.

The first use of the Sturmtiger was in the Warsaw ghetto uprising.  This would prove to be type’s only use in its designed function as the Wehrmacht found itself more and more on the defensive.
They were organized into three companies of four vehicles each and were mostly used for infantry support; like a big Stug.  Two companies fought in the Battle of the Bulge before switching over to mostly defensive operations.  One other operation of note was that after the bridge at Remagen had fallen, two Sturmtiger companies (the same two that fought in the Ardennes) were deployed to destroy the bridge.  It was discovered they lacked the accuracy to actually HIT the bridge, but were otherwise useful for infantry support.

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The Tiger I was the basis of the Sturmtiger. With the addition of the giant mortar and heavier armor the Sturmtiger was over 10 tons heavier.

This is the Tamiya kit.  I think its the only thing I’ve ever built with no national, unit, tactical, or maintenance markings of any sort.  Not even a decal sheet in the box! Like most late-war German armor it was first painted in overall dark yellow, then had green and brown disruptive colors applied in a variety of interesting “ambush” schemes.  But apparently any markings were considered unimportant at this late date.

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Its funny to see an AFV that makes a Tiger look svelte.

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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21 Responses to Sturmtiger

  1. Pierre Lagacé says:

    Interesting Dave.

  2. a gray says:

    Did a Sturmtiger unit also serve in Italy? Also, why do you think the kit came without any national markings? Is this a trend?

    • atcDave says:

      I don’t *think* so. There were three units of four. Two served on the western front and one on the eastern. Obviously that adds up to twelve, so six are maybe unaccounted for. My guess would be those were spares. But given German transportation problems in the last year or so of the War I *doubt* any went south. But thinking and proving are two different things, so I wouldn’t be shocked if proof emerged that a number did.

      I think the decal thing is just because this vehicle honestly had no markings on it. The kit is about four years old and I’ve built a number of newer kits that had the normal/expected decal and marking guide. But this one just had a painting guide with no mention of any markings at all. My guess would just be that it was a very low priority in the last year of the War to worry about such things. AFVs typically have pretty sparse markings anyway. But even the Luftwaffe drastically simplified such things towards the end. Apparently the Wehrmacht was past caring.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      There was a very similar looking model based on the Panzer IV chassis called Sturmpanzer IV ( or Brummbar ). It did serve at Anzio in addition to Kursk, Normandy, and also the Warsaw uprising. I built one in 1/35th back in the day.

  3. jfwknifton says:

    What an interesting post about a vehicle i had never heard of. Still, any AFV that cannot hit a bridge can’t be bad!

  4. It’s certainly wouldn’t win any prizes for looks! I wonder if the troops manning them felt the same way. It sounds more like it was a shoot for effect, rather than for accuracy weapon.

    • atcDave says:

      Presumably it could hit a building? At least a big one….

      There is one account of it landing a shell amid a group of Sherman tanks and disabling all of them. But details are fuzzy so it may be apocryphal.
      I bet the crew loved its massively thick armor! Weapon accuracy not so much.

    • Ernie Davis says:

      Well considering that it was derived from a system designed to hit water from a boat accuracy may not have been high on the priority list for the original design.

      • atcDave says:

        Yeah, it just reeks of “improvised weapon”. I very big IED.
        Remember the original plan called for a 210 mm howitzer. But for reasons unclear to me (failed in development? Factory destroyed/captured?) they had to switch to a second choice.

      • Probably not indeed. For wider destruction you don’t need accuracy just a big blast, that would have the desired affect.

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