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On 7 may 1942 Hitler signed an order that a simplified version of the halftrack should be developed, to replace the 5 ton Sd.Kfz. 6. The production of the Sd.Kfz. 6 was to be discontinued.
Development and Production
Büssing-Nag was entrusted with the order to fill in the gap. The first prototypes were shown at the spring of 1943. The sWS went into production on December 1943 at the Büssing-Nag plant in Berlin and at the Ringhofer Tatra plant in Czechoslovakia. They were ordered at a rate of 150 per month, though in 1943 only 5 sWS were delivered. Untill September 1944 only 381 vehicles had been delivered. A total of 825 were completed by March 1945, of the 7484 ordered.
The sWS is powered by a Maybach HL 42TRKMS water-cooled V-6 gasoline engine with 76,4 kW (100 pk), it can reach a distance of 300 km with 240 liters of fuel. It’s payload capacity is 4000kg.
The Schwerer Wehrmachtschlepper or heavy tractor was not intended for the artillery or panzer units but for the infantry, and was mainly used for pulling the 8.8 cm PaK 43, PaK 43/41 or the 8.8 cm FlaK gun.
The sWS, a heavy tractor, had virtually no armour and lacked the time consuming rubber parts on the tracks. It differed itself from other German halftracks in having wide spin tracks. The suspension layout was similar to that of the Panther tank.
The SWS proved to be efficient enough in service and were proportionately far more cost-effective than other models. Some original survivors served in the Czech army for a number of years. After the war the Tatra factory built a new version of the sWS, known as the Tatra T809.
The sWS came in several versions:
- A frontline version was built, fitted with an armoured cab and engine cover.
- A version carrying a 3.7cm FlaK 43 anti aircraft gun; (only a few of these were produced).
- In small numbers, a version was built with an armoured hull over the rear and on top a 15 cm panzerwerfer 42, a Zehnling, to replace the maultier carriers (Ford and Opel based).
- Some sWS’s were used as ambulance and could carry 4 stretchers with medics.
sWS on display
This specific vehicle on these photographs is seen on the internet on two other locations. These are the WWII Victory museum, in Auburn USA and in a private collection in Germany.
According to the website of Piet van Hees, who is an sWS enthusiast, the vehicle was found on a gravel yard in France, were it carried the heavy machinery for gravel production.
Being restored with help of the Arlon Museum, it received a new wooden structure, after which the sWS ended up in the collection of the WWII Victory museum, in Auburn USA. The original tracks were unfortunately long worn out due to the hard labour it had done in the years past.
The markings on the vehicle are the divisional symbol of the 12. SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. The other is a symbol of the Mechanized infantry, and the “SS” registration sign is seen on the licence plates.
We encountered this beautiful vehicle in the Liberty Park Museum in Overloon Netherlands. It looked as if it had just arrived, the “stamp” was still on it. Send in from Ports America Baltimore. It seemed to have taken some damage on the grill during transport.
We loved it, it looked used and old, but needed some work. Check the museum if you want to visit it, we do not know if it’s a newly bought object or temporarily on display in the Netherlands.
Name: sWS, Schwerer Wehrmachtschlepper
Other designation: Gerät 71
Type: Heavy semi-tracked carrier
Chassis numbers: 150001-?
Number produced: 825
Production: December 1943 – March 1945
Crew: 2 (5 in the 15cm panzerwerfer 42)
Weight (tonnes): 13.5
Length (metres): 6.92
Width (metres): 2.50
Height (metres): 2.07
Engine: Maybach HL42TRKMS – 74.6kW, 100 hp
Gearbox: 2×4 forward, 2×1 reverse
Speed (km/h): 27
Range (km): 300
Armament: one 3.7cm FlaK43 L/89
one 15cm Nebelwerfer 42
one 7.92mm MG42
Traverse: 360° (Flak 3.7cm) / 270° (15cm Nebelwerfer 42)
Elevation: -6° to + 90° (Flak 3.7cm) / -5° + 45° (15cm Nebelwerfer 42)
Sights: FlaKvisier 3 x 8 (Flak 3.7cm) /RA35 (15cm Nebelwerfer 42)
TFZ4/36 Ausf A&B
TFZ4/38 Ausf C
Ammunition: 50 Wurfgrenate
Armour (mm/angle) armoured version only, standard no armour
Turret front: 10/45° (15cm Nebelwerfer 42)
Superstructure front: 15/30°
Hull front: 15/15°
Gun shield: 10/30° (Flak 3.7cm)
A few months later we were at Overloon War Museum again and found the sWS displayed with a soft top. The damage was still unattended.