Panzerschreck (lit. "tank fright", "tank's fright" or "tank's bane") was the popular name for the Raketenpanzerbüchse 54 ("Rocket Anti-armor Rifle model 54" abbreviated to RPzB 54), an 88 mm reusable anti-tank rocket launcher developed by Nazi Germany in World War II. Another earlier, official common name was Ofenrohr ("stove pipe").
The improved Raketenpanzerbüchse 54 with blast shield.
|Type||Anti-tank rocket launcher|
|Place of origin||Nazi Germany|
|In service||1943–1945 (Nazi Germany)|
|Used by||See Users|
|Wars||World War II|
|Mass||11 kilograms (24 lb) empty (RPzB 54)|
|Length||164 centimetres (65 in)|
|Muzzle velocity||110m/s (360 ft/s, 246 mph)|
|Effective firing range||150 m (RPzB 54)|
The Panzerschreck was designed as a lightweight infantry anti-tank weapon and was an enlarged copy of the American bazooka. The weapon was shoulder-launched and fired a fin-stabilized rocket with a shaped-charge warhead. It was made in smaller numbers than the Panzerfaust, which was a disposable recoilless gun firing an anti-tank warhead.
The Panzerschreck development was initially based on the American bazooka, captured in Tunisia, February 1943. The Panzerschreck was larger and heavier than its American counterpart - the Panzerschreck had an 88 mm calibre, compared to the 60 mm calibre of the bazooka - which meant that it could penetrate thicker armor, but it also produced more smoke when firing.
Calibre 88 mm was selected as existing RPzB. Gr. 4312 for 8.8 cm Raketenwerfer 43 was reused for Panzerschreck. Warhead and fuzing was carried over, but the rocket motor's housing needed lengthening from 490 mm (19 in) to 650 mm (26 in) to accommodate the longer rocket motor. Raketenwerfer 43 had percussion firing, whereas for Panzerschreck an electrical priming was selected, forming standard grenade RPzB. Gr. 4322. Other munitions were developed, including drill dummy, practice live rocket with inert warhead and standard grenade with improved contact system.
The earliest production model of the RPzB 54 was 164 centimetres (5.38 ft) long and weighed about 9.25 kilograms (20.4 lb) when empty. Unlike the rockets used in American bazookas which extinguished before leaving the tube, the RPzB rockets kept burning for about 2 meters after exiting the tube. Users were instructed to wear heavy gloves, a protective poncho and a gas mask without a filter to protect them from the heat of the backblast when the weapon was fired. Improvised shields were made to protect the user and in February 1944, the RPzB 54 was fitted with an official blast shield to protect the operator which made the weapon heavier, weighing 11 kilograms (24 lb) empty. Small numbers of the shortened RPzB 54/1 were later produced. It had an improved rocket, a shorter barrel, and a range increased to about 180 meters.
Firing the RPzB generated a lot of smoke both in front of and behind the weapon. Because of the weapon's tube and the smoke, official documentation named the weapon the Ofenrohr ("Stove Pipe"). This also meant that anti-tank teams were revealed once they fired, making them targets and, therefore, required them to shift positions after firing. This type of system also made it problematic to fire the weapon from inside closed spaces (such as bunkers or houses), filling the room with toxic smoke and revealing the firing location immediately.
Late war German tactical doctrine called for Panzerschreck and/or Panzerfaust teams to set up in staggered trenches no further than 115 metres apart. In this way, attacking armor would face anti-tank fire from multiple directions at a distance of no more than 69 metres. Anti-tank teams were instructed to aim for the thinner side or rear armor whenever possible. Allied armored units frequently attempted to add improvised protection to their tanks, e.g., sandbags, spare track units, logs and so on to protect against HEAT rounds. Most of this makeshift protection had little protective effect, and overtaxed the vehicle's engine, transmission, and suspension systems. Another defense was to rig metal mesh and netting around the tank, resembling the German Schürzen auxiliary plates.
In 1944, Germany provided the Panzerschreck to Finland, which used it to great effect against Soviet armour. In one engagement the Finns destroyed 25 Soviet tanks. The Finnish name for the weapon was Panssarikauhu (literal translation of the German name). An all-new Finnish weapon, the 55 S 55, was developed after the war along the lines of Panzerschreck.
The Italian Social Republic and Hungary also used the Panzerschreck. Several Italian units became known as skilled anti-tank hunters and the Hungarians used the Panzerschreck extensively during Operation Spring Awakening.
Penetration measured against Face-Hardened Armor (FHA), Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA).
|United States||FHA (6") + RHA (2.25")||90°||210mm|
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