Nazi Germany

Germany's armored force was not especially impressive from a technical standpoint at the start of the war. As noted above, it was their advanced combined arms doctrine and unrivaled command-and-control capability that gave German mechanized forces their advantage on the battlefield. Pre-war plans called for two main tanks: the main tank was to be the Panzer III medium tank, supported by smaller numbers of the howitzer-armed Panzer IV. However, by the beginning of the invasion of Poland, only a few hundred of these vehicles were available. As a result, the invasions of Poland and France were carried out primarily with the less capable Panzer I and Panzer II light tanks (armed with machine guns and a 20 mm gun respectively), with some gun armed light tanks of Czechoslovak design (Panzer 35(t) and Panzer 38(t), both armed with a 37 mm gun). Even in 1941, Panzer III production amounted only to about a thousand tanks, forcing the Germans to use Czech tanks as substitutes for the Panzer III. As the war proceeded, production of heavier tanks increased.
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Panzer I (variants)
The Panzer I was a light tank produced in Germany in the 1930s. The name is short for the German Panzerkampfwagen I ("armored fighting vehicle mark I"), abbreviated PzKpfw I. The tank's official German ordnance inventory designation was SdKfz 101 ("special purpose vehicle 101").[2]

Design of the Panzer I began in 1932 and mass production began in 1934. Intended only as a training tank to introduce the concept of armored warfare to the German Army, the Panzer I saw combat in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, in Poland, France, the Soviet Union and North Africa during the Second World War, and in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Experiences with the Panzer I during the Spanish Civil War helped shape the German Panzerwaffes' invasion of Poland in 1939 and France in 1940. By 1941, the Panzer I chassis design was used as the basis of tank destroyers and assault guns. There were attempts to upgrade the Panzer I throughout its service history, including by foreign nations, to extend the design's lifespan. It continued to serve in the Spanish Armed Forces until 1954.

The Panzer I's performance in combat was limited by its thin armour and light armament of two machine guns. As a design intended for training, the Panzer I was not as capable as other light tanks of the era, such as the Soviet T-26. Although weak in combat, it formed a large part of Germany's tank forces and was used in all major campaigns between September 1939 and December 1941. The small, vulnerable light tank would be surpassed in importance by other German tanks, such as the Panzer IV, Panther, and Tiger; nevertheless, the Panzer I's contribution to the early victories of Nazi Germany during World War II was significant. Later in that war the turrets of the then obsolete PzKpfw Is and PzKpfw IIs were repurposed as gun turrets on specially built defensive bunkers,[3] particularly on the Atlantic Wall.
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Panzer V Panther A
The Panther is a German medium tank deployed during World War II on the Eastern and Western Fronts in Europe from mid-1943 to the war's end in 1945. It had the ordnance inventory designation of Sd.Kfz. 171. It was designated as the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther until 27 February 1944, when Hitler ordered that the Roman numeral "V" be deleted. Contemporary English language reports sometimes refer to it as the Mark V.

The Panther was intended to counter the Soviet T-34 and to replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Nevertheless, it served alongside the Panzer IV and the heavier Tiger I until the end of the war. It is considered one of the best tanks of World War II for its excellent firepower and protection, although its reliability was less impressive.[5]

The Panther was a compromise. While having essentially the same engine as the Tiger I, it had more efficient frontal hull armour,[6] better gun penetration, was lighter and faster, and could traverse rough terrain better than the Tiger I. The trade-off was weaker side armour, which made it vulnerable to flanking fire. The Panther proved to be effective in open country and long range engagements, but did not provide enough high explosive firepower against infantry.[7]

The Panther was far cheaper to produce than the Tiger I, and only slightly more expensive than the Panzer IV. Key elements of the Panther design, such as its armour, transmission, and final drive, were simplifications made to improve production rates and address raw material shortages. The overall design remained somewhat over-engineered.[8][9] The Panther was rushed into combat at the Battle of Kursk despite numerous unresolved technical problems, leading to high losses due to mechanical failure. Most design flaws were rectified by late 1943 and the spring of 1944, though the bombing of production plants, increasing shortages of high quality alloys for critical components, shortage of fuel and training space, and the declining quality of crews all impacted the tank's effectiveness.

Though officially classified as a medium tank, its weight is more like that of a heavy tank, as its weight of 44.8 tons puts it roughly in the same category as the American M26 Pershing (41.7 tons), British Churchill (40.7 tons) and the Soviet IS-2 (46 tons) heavy tanks. The tank had a very high power to weight ratio however, making it extremely mobile regardless of its weight. Its weight still caused heavy tank-esque problems however, such as an inability to cross certain bridges.
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Panzer V Panther D
The Panther is a German medium tank deployed during World War II on the Eastern and Western Fronts in Europe from mid-1943 to the war's end in 1945. It had the ordnance inventory designation of Sd.Kfz. 171. It was designated as the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther until 27 February 1944, when Hitler ordered that the Roman numeral "V" be deleted. Contemporary English language reports sometimes refer to it as the Mark V.

The Panther was intended to counter the Soviet T-34 and to replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Nevertheless, it served alongside the Panzer IV and the heavier Tiger I until the end of the war. It is considered one of the best tanks of World War II for its excellent firepower and protection, although its reliability was less impressive.[5]

The Panther was a compromise. While having essentially the same engine as the Tiger I, it had more efficient frontal hull armour,[6] better gun penetration, was lighter and faster, and could traverse rough terrain better than the Tiger I. The trade-off was weaker side armour, which made it vulnerable to flanking fire. The Panther proved to be effective in open country and long range engagements, but did not provide enough high explosive firepower against infantry.[7]

The Panther was far cheaper to produce than the Tiger I, and only slightly more expensive than the Panzer IV. Key elements of the Panther design, such as its armour, transmission, and final drive, were simplifications made to improve production rates and address raw material shortages. The overall design remained somewhat over-engineered.[8][9] The Panther was rushed into combat at the Battle of Kursk despite numerous unresolved technical problems, leading to high losses due to mechanical failure. Most design flaws were rectified by late 1943 and the spring of 1944, though the bombing of production plants, increasing shortages of high quality alloys for critical components, shortage of fuel and training space, and the declining quality of crews all impacted the tank's effectiveness.

Though officially classified as a medium tank, its weight is more like that of a heavy tank, as its weight of 44.8 tons puts it roughly in the same category as the American M26 Pershing (41.7 tons), British Churchill (40.7 tons) and the Soviet IS-2 (46 tons) heavy tanks. The tank had a very high power to weight ratio however, making it extremely mobile regardless of its weight. Its weight still caused heavy tank-esque problems however, such as an inability to cross certain bridges.
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Panzer V Panther G
The Panther is a German medium tank deployed during World War II on the Eastern and Western Fronts in Europe from mid-1943 to the war's end in 1945. It had the ordnance inventory designation of Sd.Kfz. 171. It was designated as the Panzerkampfwagen V Panther until 27 February 1944, when Hitler ordered that the Roman numeral "V" be deleted. Contemporary English language reports sometimes refer to it as the Mark V.

The Panther was intended to counter the Soviet T-34 and to replace the Panzer III and Panzer IV. Nevertheless, it served alongside the Panzer IV and the heavier Tiger I until the end of the war. It is considered one of the best tanks of World War II for its excellent firepower and protection, although its reliability was less impressive.[5]

The Panther was a compromise. While having essentially the same engine as the Tiger I, it had more efficient frontal hull armour,[6] better gun penetration, was lighter and faster, and could traverse rough terrain better than the Tiger I. The trade-off was weaker side armour, which made it vulnerable to flanking fire. The Panther proved to be effective in open country and long range engagements, but did not provide enough high explosive firepower against infantry.[7]

The Panther was far cheaper to produce than the Tiger I, and only slightly more expensive than the Panzer IV. Key elements of the Panther design, such as its armour, transmission, and final drive, were simplifications made to improve production rates and address raw material shortages. The overall design remained somewhat over-engineered.[8][9] The Panther was rushed into combat at the Battle of Kursk despite numerous unresolved technical problems, leading to high losses due to mechanical failure. Most design flaws were rectified by late 1943 and the spring of 1944, though the bombing of production plants, increasing shortages of high quality alloys for critical components, shortage of fuel and training space, and the declining quality of crews all impacted the tank's effectiveness.

Though officially classified as a medium tank, its weight is more like that of a heavy tank, as its weight of 44.8 tons puts it roughly in the same category as the American M26 Pershing (41.7 tons), British Churchill (40.7 tons) and the Soviet IS-2 (46 tons) heavy tanks. The tank had a very high power to weight ratio however, making it extremely mobile regardless of its weight. Its weight still caused heavy tank-esque problems however, such as an inability to cross certain bridges.
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Panzer VI Tiger I

The Tiger I is a German heavy tank of World War II deployed from 1942 in Africa and Europe, usually in independent heavy tank battalions. Its final designation was Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger Ausf. E often shortened to Tiger. The Tiger I gave the Wehrmacht its first armoured fighting vehicle that mounted the 8.8 cm KwK 36 gun (not to be confused with the 8.8 cm Flak 36). 1,347 were built between August 1942 and August 1944.[9] After August 1944, production of the Tiger I was phased out in favour of the Tiger II.

While the Tiger I has been called an outstanding design for its time,[10] it was over-engineered. using expensive materials and labour-intensive production methods. The Tiger was prone to certain types of track failures and breakdowns, and was limited in range by its high fuel consumption. It was expensive to maintain, but generally mechanically reliable. It was difficult to transport, and vulnerable to immobilisation when mud, ice and snow froze between its overlapping and interleaved Schachtellaufwerk-pattern road wheels, often jamming them solid. This was a problem on the Eastern Front in the muddy rasputitsa season and during extreme periods of cold.[citation needed]

The tank was given its nickname "Tiger" by Ferdinand Porsche, and the Roman numeral was added after the later Tiger II entered production. The initial designation was Panzerkampfwagen VI Ausführung H (‘‘Panzer VI version H’’, abbreviated PzKpfw VI Ausf. H) where 'H' denoted Henschel as the designer/manufacturer. It was classified with ordnance inventory designation SdKfz 182. The tank was later re-designated as PzKpfw VI Ausf. E in March 1943, with ordnance inventory designation SdKfz 181.

Today, only about seven Tiger Is survive in museums and private collections worldwide. The Tiger 131 at the UK's Tank Museum, which was captured during the North Africa Campaign, is currently the only one restored to running order.

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Sd.Kfz. 250/9 Reconnaissance variant with 20mm KwK 38 autocannon
Sd.Kfz. 250/9 leichter Schützenpanzerwagen (2 cm)
Reconnaissance variant with a 2 cm KwK 38 autocannon and a coaxial MG (MG 34 or MG 42) in a low, open-topped turret identical to that of the Sd Kfz. 222 armoured car.
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Panzer 38(t)
The Panzerkampfwagen 38(t) was originally a Czechoslovak tank of pre-World War II design. After Czechoslovakia was taken over by Germany, it was adopted by the German Army, seeing service in the invasions of Poland, France and the USSR. Production ended in 1942, when its main armament was deemed inadequate. In all, over 1,400 Pz. 38(t)s were manufactured. The chassis of the Pz. 38(t) continued to be produced for the Marder III (1942–1944) with some of its components used in the later Jagdpanzer 38 (1944–1945) tank destroyers and its derivative vehicles.

The (t) stands for tschechisch, the German word for Czech; the Czechoslovak military designation was LT vz. 38 (Lehký tank vzor 38, Light Tank model 38). Manufacturer's designations included TNH series, TNHPS, LTP and LTH. The special vehicle designation for the tank in Germany was Sd. Kfz. 140.
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Panzer 35(t)
The Panzerkampfwagen 35(t), commonly shortened to Panzer 35(t) or abbreviated as Pz.Kpfw. 35(t), was a Czechoslovak-designed light tank used mainly by Nazi Germany during World War II. The letter (t) stood for tschechisch (German: "Czech"). In Czechoslovak service, it had the formal designation Lehký tank vzor 35 (Light Tank Model 35), but was commonly referred to as the LT vz. 35 or LT-35. A total of 434 were built; of these, the Germans seized 244 when they occupied Bohemia-Moravia in March 1939 and the Slovaks acquired 52 when they declared independence from Czechoslovakia at the same time. Others were exported to Bulgaria and Romania. In German service, it saw combat during the early years of World War II, notably the invasion of Poland, the Battle of France and the invasion of the Soviet Union before being retired or sold off in 1942. It was used for the remainder of the war by other countries and as a training tank in Bulgaria into the 1950s.
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Volkswagen Kübelwagen
Kübelwagen is an abbreviation of Kübelsitzwagen, meaning "bucket-seat car" because all German light military vehicles that had no doors were fitted with bucket seats to prevent passengers from falling out. The first VW test vehicles had no doors and were therefore fitted with bucket seats, so acquiring the name VW Kübelsitzwagen that was later shortened to Kübelwagen. Mercedes, Opel and Tatra also built Kübel(sitz)wagens. With its rolling chassis and mechanics built at Stadt des KdF-Wagens (renamed Wolfsburg after 1945), and its body built by US-owned firm Ambi Budd Presswerke in Berlin, the Kübelwagen was for the Germans what the Jeep and GAZ-67 were for the Allies.
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Sd.Kfz. 250/B1 Half-track
The Sd.Kfz. 250 (German: Sonderkraftfahrzeug 250; 'special motor vehicle') was a light armoured halftrack, very similar in appearance to the larger Hanomag-designed Sd.Kfz. 251, and built by the DEMAG firm, for use by Nazi Germany in World War II. Most variants were open-topped and had a single access door in the rear.

The Sd. Kfz 250 was adopted in 1939 to supplement the standard halftrack. Production delays meant that the first vehicle did not appear until mid-1941
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Panzer III L
The Panzerkampfwagen III, commonly known as the Panzer III, was a medium tank developed in the 1930s by Germany, and was used extensively in World War II. The official German ordnance designation was Sd.Kfz. 141. It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and serve alongside and support the Panzer IV; however, as the Germans faced the formidable T-34, more powerful anti-tank guns were needed, and since the Panzer IV had more development potential, it was redesigned to mount the long-barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 40 gun. The Panzer III effectively became obsolete in the anti-tank role and was supplanted by the Panzer IV. From 1942, the last version of Panzer III mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24, better suited for infantry support. Production of the Panzer III ceased in 1943. Nevertheless, the Panzer III's capable chassis provided hulls for the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun until the end of the war.
  • Panzer III Ausf. L - Redesignated Aus. J equipped with long 5 cm gun, 20 mm stand-off armour plates on hull and turret front.
  • Panzer III Ausf. M - Minor modifications of the ausf. L such as deep-wading exhaust and Schürzen side-armour panels.
  • Panzer III Ausf. N - Infantry support tank, armed with a short-barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun. 700 were produced or re-equipped from 1942 and 1943.
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Panzer III N
The Panzerkampfwagen III, commonly known as the Panzer III, was a medium tank developed in the 1930s by Germany, and was used extensively in World War II. The official German ordnance designation was Sd.Kfz. 141. It was intended to fight other armoured fighting vehicles and serve alongside and support the Panzer IV; however, as the Germans faced the formidable T-34, more powerful anti-tank guns were needed, and since the Panzer IV had more development potential, it was redesigned to mount the long-barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 40 gun. The Panzer III effectively became obsolete in the anti-tank role and was supplanted by the Panzer IV. From 1942, the last version of Panzer III mounted the 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24, better suited for infantry support. Production of the Panzer III ceased in 1943. Nevertheless, the Panzer III's capable chassis provided hulls for the Sturmgeschütz III assault gun until the end of the war.
  • Panzer III Ausf. L - Redesignated Aus. J equipped with long 5 cm gun, 20 mm stand-off armour plates on hull and turret front.
  • Panzer III Ausf. M - Minor modifications of the ausf. L such as deep-wading exhaust and Schürzen side-armour panels.
  • Panzer III Ausf. N - Infantry support tank, armed with a short-barrelled 7.5 cm KwK 37 L/24 gun. 700 were produced or re-equipped from 1942 and 1943.
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Sturmgeschütz III G (StuG III G) assault gun

The Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III) assault gun was Germany's second most-produced armoured fighting vehicle during World War II after the Sd.Kfz. 251 half-track. It was built on the chassis of the proven Panzer III tank, replacing the turret with an armored, fixed superstructure mounting a more powerful gun. Initially intended as a mobile assault gun for direct-fire support for infantry, the StuG III was continually modified, and much like the later Jagdpanzer, was employed as a tank destroyer.

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Panzer IV G
The Panzerkampfwagen IV (PzKpfw IV), commonly known as the Panzer IV, was a German medium tank developed in the late 1930s and used extensively during the Second World War. Its ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz. 161.

The Panzer IV was the most widely manufactured German tank and the second-most widely manufactured German armored fighting vehicle of the Second World War, with some 8,500 built. The Panzer IV chassis was used as the base for many other fighting vehicles, including the Sturmgeschütz IV assault gun, Jagdpanzer IV tank destroyer, the Wirbelwind self-propelled anti-aircraft gun, and the Brummbär self-propelled gun.

The Panzer IV saw service in all combat theaters involving Germany and was the only German tank to remain in continuous production throughout the war. It received various upgrades and design modifications, intended to counter new threats, extending its service life. Generally, these involved increasing the Panzer IV's armor protection or upgrading its weapons, although during the last months of the war, with Germany's pressing need for rapid replacement of losses, design changes also included simplifications to speed up the manufacturing process.
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Sturmgeschütz III A, B, C, E, F (StuG III) assault gun

The Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III) assault gun was Germany's second most-produced armoured fighting vehicle during World War II after the Sd.Kfz. 251 half-track. It was built on the chassis of the proven Panzer III tank, replacing the turret with an armored, fixed superstructure mounting a more powerful gun. Initially intended as a mobile assault gun for direct-fire support for infantry, the StuG III was continually modified, and much like the later Jagdpanzer, was employed as a tank destroyer.

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Jagdpanzer IV, Sd.Kfz. 162 tank destroyer
The Jagdpanzer IV, Sd.Kfz. 162, was a German tank destroyer based on the Panzer IV chassis and built in three main variants. As one of the casemate-style turretless Jagdpanzer (tank destroyer, literally "hunting tank") designs, it was developed against the wishes of Heinz Guderian, the inspector general of the Panzertruppen, as a replacement for the Sturmgeschütz III (StuG III). Guderian objected against the needless, in his eyes, diversion of resources from Panzer IV tank production, as the Sturmgeschütz III was still more than adequate for its role. Officially, only the L/48-armed vehicle was named Jagdpanzer IV. The L/70-armed vehicle was named Panzer IV/70. In this article, both versions are referred to in general as Jagdpanzer IV, except in the variants and surviving vehicles section.
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Opel Blitz Truck
During the years preceding World War II Opel was Germany's largest truck producer. The Blitz name, found in a prize competition, was first applied to an Opel truck in By 1934 there were four base versions offered of the 1 tonne basic model along with fourteen versions of the larger 2 and 2½ tonne trucks. Under the terms of Nazi economy and the German re-armament the authorities ordered the construction of the Opelwerk Brandenburg facilities in 1935, where until 1944 more than 130,000 Blitz trucks and chassis were produced. The medium-weight versions originally were equipped with a flathead 68 HP petrol engine coming from the 1930 GM Buick Marquette, replaced in 1937 with a modern overhead valve 75 HP straight-six engine also used in Opel Admiral passenger cars. This engine was very similar to Chevrolet engines from the same period, to the point that disabled Blitzes abandoned by fleeing Germans could be easily put back into operation by advancing Allies using Chevy/GMC and Bedford parts. From 1939, the reliable Blitz 3.6 three-ton version was used in large numbers by the German Wehrmacht armed forces throughout World War II.

Derived variants included an elongated version and the four-wheel drive Blitz A. To cope with the bad road conditions and the rasputitsa mud seasons on the Eastern Front, a half-tracked Maultier (mule) SdKfz 3 version was built using tracks and suspension based on the Universal Carrier. Among others, these were used as service vehicles for the Messerschmitt Me 323 military transport aircraft. It is also claimed that Opel, a subsidiary of GM, used forced labor to reap unprecedented profits.[1] To what degree GM controlled Opel at the time is subject to debate, but it is clear that GM did in fact play a role in giving Nazi Germany the Opel Blitz truck.[2]
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Sd.Kfz. 251 Half-track
The Sd.Kfz. 251 (Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251) half-track was a WW2 German armored fighting vehicle designed by the Hanomag company, based on its earlier, unarmored Sd.Kfz. 11 vehicle. The Sd.Kfz. 251 was designed to transport the panzergrenadiers (German mechanized infantry) into battle. Sd.Kfz. 251s were the most widely produced German half-tracks of the war, with at least 15,252 vehicles and variants produced by various manufacturers, and were commonly referred to simply as "Hanomags" by both German and Allied soldiers.
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Tiger II Königstiger
The Tiger II is a German heavy tank of the Second World War. The final official German designation was Panzerkampfwagen Tiger Ausf. B,[notes 1] often shortened to Tiger B.[6] The ordnance inventory designation was Sd.Kfz. 182.[6] It is also known under the informal name Königstiger[6] (the German name for the Bengal tiger), often translated literally as Royal Tiger, or somewhat incorrectly as King Tiger by Allied soldiers, especially by American forces.[7][8]

The Tiger II was the successor to the Tiger I, combining the latter's thick armour with the armour sloping used on the Panther medium tank. The tank weighed almost 70 tonnes, and was protected by 100 to 185 mm (3.9 to 7.3 in) of armour to the front.[9] It was armed with the long barrelled 8.8 cm KwK 43 L/71 anti-tank cannon.[notes 2] The chassis was also the basis for the Jagdtiger turretless tank destroyer.[10]

The Tiger II was issued to heavy tank battalions of the Army and the Waffen-SS. It was first used in combat with 503rd Heavy Panzer Battalion during the Allied Invasion of Normandy on 11 July 1944;[11] on the Eastern Front, the first unit to be outfitted with Tiger IIs was the 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion, which by 1 September 1944 listed 25 Tiger IIs operational.
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Jagdpanzer E-25

The Entwicklung series (from German Entwicklung, "development"), more commonly known as the E-Series, was a late-World War II attempt by Nazi Germany to produce a standardised series of tank designs. There were to be standard designs in five different weight classes (E-10, E-25, E-50, E-75 and E-100) from which several specialised variants were to be developed. This intended to reverse the trend of extremely complex tank designs that had resulted in poor production rates and mechanical unreliability.

The E-series designs were simpler, cheaper to produce and more efficient than their predecessors; however, their design offered only modest improvements in armour and firepower over the designs they were intended to replace, such as the Jagdpanzer 38(t), Panther Ausf.G or Tiger II; and would have represented the final standardization of German armoured vehicle design. Indeed, nearly all of the E-series vehicles — up through and including the E-75 — were intended to use what were essentially the Tiger II's eighty centimeter diameter, steel-rimmed road wheels for their suspension, meant to overlap each other (as on the later production Tiger I-E and Panther designs that also used them), abandoning the interleaved Schachtellaufwerk roadwheel system that first appeared on German military half-tracks in the early 1930s.

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