The Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251 / 16 project was launched at the end of 1942 of the year along with several other developments of a similar purpose. According to the results of the urban battles in Stalingrad, the command of the German army demanded to create several versions of flamethrowers on self-propelled chassis. As the carrier of the flamethrower, several existing chassis borrowed from serial tanks and self-propelled guns were considered. In addition, there was a proposal to use the average Sd.Kfz.251 armored personnel carrier. This machine was produced in large series and was actively exploited by the troops. In addition, several specialized types of equipment were built on its base. A new version of the armored carrier was supposed to be a self-propelled flamethrower.
In the basic configuration, the Bdr Sd.Kfz.251 was used to transport soldiers and their fire support on the battlefield. A characteristic feature of this car was a semi-tracked undercarriage, which made it possible to achieve acceptable mobility and maneuverability without seriously complicating the design of the transmission. The machine could carry up to ten paratroopers with weapons, and, if necessary, support them with machine-gun fire.
General view of the Sd.Kfz.251 / 16 self-propelled flamethrower. Photo of Chamberlain P., Doyle H. "Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War"
The armored personnel carrier had a body of complex shape formed by a large number of armor plates of various shapes and sizes. The hull had a low-height front engine compartment, behind which there was a large manned space to accommodate the crew and landing force. The sides of the habitable part of the hull consisted of lower sheets installed with the collapse outward, and the upper, inclined inward. The original shape of the armored hull gave the car a recognizable look. The front part of the hull and side were made of armor plates 14,5 mm thick. Also used 8-mm sheets, from which were made the bottom and some elements of the roof.
The engine, radiator, fuel tank, steering system and some other components and assemblies were placed in the front compartment of the hull. Behind the engine compartment, behind the fire wall, were jobs for the driver and commander. Directly behind them was a large troop unit. To access the car should use the swing door aft. In addition, with proper skill, the landing and disembarkation could be performed through the sides, taking advantage of the lack of a roof.
The Sd.Kfz.251 armored personnel carriers were equipped with Maybach HL 42TURKM carburetor engines with HP 100 power. Behind the engine in the engine compartment was placed 160-liter fuel tank. The engine was connected to a dry dual-clutch and a gearbox that provided four forward speeds and one reverse. Interestingly, the design of the gearbox had different gear ratios for driving on the highway and on rough terrain. After the gearbox, torque was delivered to the drive wheels of the tracked propulsion unit.
Combat compartment with two flamethrowers. Photo of Chamberlain P., Doyle H. "Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War"
The Sd.Kfz.251 armored personnel carrier received a semi-tracked undercarriage. In front of the hull were mounted two single wheel with spring suspension and steering gear. With the help of the wheels, it was proposed to perform maneuvering when turning at small angles. For a sharper turn, it was proposed to additionally redistribute the torque between the tracks.
The tracked propulsion unit received six large-diameter road wheels with an individual torsion bar suspension on each side. In front of the tracks were placed the drive wheels, in the back - guides. To improve the permeability characteristics, the support rollers were staggered in several rows. A small caterpillar with a width of 280 mm was used.
In the base configuration, the Bd Sd.Kfz.251 was equipped with one or two machine guns. Installations for MG 34 or MG 42 machine guns were placed on the roof of the hull in the front and aft parts of the habitable compartment. The front installation was additionally covered with an armor shield. Inside the habitable compartment racks were provided for stacking ammunition machine guns.
The crew of the armored personnel carrier consisted of two people: the driver and the commander. On the benches of the troop compartment could accommodate ten people with weapons. If necessary, the paratroopers were supposed to use machine guns on installations. In addition, the hull design allowed the paratroopers to fire from personal weapons, firing over the sides.
The units of the breech. Photo: Ardashev A., Fedoseev S. "Flame-throwing tanks and hand-held flame throwers in battle"
The creation of the Sd.Kfz.251 / 16 project began at the end of 1942, in parallel with other work on self-propelled machines with flamethrowing weapons. This feature of the project to some extent affected the formation of the appearance and design of some units. According to reports, the self-propelled flamethrower on the basis of the armored personnel carrier was supposed to use some components and assemblies, borrowed from parallel projects. In particular, a similar fire engine architecture and similar fire supply systems were used.
The design of the base machine made it possible to equip it not with one flamethrower, like the other flamethrower tanks, but with a set of two similar systems. The hoses of two flame throwers were to be mounted on the onboard installations of the hull. In the central part of the boards additional supports appeared with fastenings for mobile installation of hoses. At the same time, the right mounts were placed slightly in front of the left, which should have led to a more convenient placement of flame throwers inside a relatively narrow fighting compartment.
The hoses consisted of a main tube with a caliber of 14,5 mm, its casing, a fastening system on the body and means of feeding the fire mixture. To protect against possible fire from small arms, fire extinguishers and flamethrowers were equipped with armor shields similar to those used on the front machine gun installation. The design of the flamethrower units allowed performing horizontal guidance within a sector 90 ° wide away from the body, and also raising the barrel from -10 ° to + 40 °.
Shooting. Photo by Pro-tank.ru
Inside the fighting compartment of the corps, two fire tanks were placed with a total capacity of 700 l. In addition, near them were mounted compressor units associated with a separate gasoline engine of low power. The compressor pumped air into the tanks with the fire mixture and was responsible for its delivery to the hoses with the necessary pressure. With the help of wire braided hoses, the mixture tanks were connected to flame-throwers pipes. Heating system mixture for operation at low ambient temperatures are not provided.
The pressure created in the tanks with compressed gas made it possible to throw the fire mixture to a distance of up to 50-55 m. At the same time, the maximum firing range depended on the method of using flamethrowers. The simultaneous use of both hoses led to a decrease in pressure in the supply hoses, which could reduce the range to 30-35 m. The one-time use of only one flamethrower allowed to reach the maximum range.
The hose was equipped with an electric candle to ignite the ejected liquid. The mixture was ejected at a rate of about 4,4 L per second (according to other data, up to 8 L), which allowed continuous flow of fluid over 160 seconds. The normal shooting mode was considered to be a mixture of single shots of 1-2 duration. With one-second salvos, the 700 "ammunition" was enough for 80 shots.
Fighting vehicle and its crew. Photo by Achtungpanzer.com
As an additional weapon for attacking targets at ranges greater than the range of the flamethrower, the Sd.Kfz.251 / 16 machine could receive two rifle-caliber machine guns. MG 34 or MG 42 machine guns were mounted on installations in the front and rear of the armored hull. Ammunition was 2010 cartridges.
The original project of the Sonderkraftfahrzeug 251 / 16 self-propelled flamethrower involved the use of removable portable weapons. In this case, the car was supposed to receive two additional flamethrowers on the basis of the 42 Flammenwerfer backpack with a 7 mm caliber fire tube. Portable flamethrowers should be transported in packing, while their fire mixture containers should be mounted on the aft door fixtures. If necessary, the crew members could dismount and use a wearable system. Interestingly, the tanks in this case remained on board the car, connecting with hoses using 10-meter hoses. Already during the mass production of self-propelled machines, it was decided to abandon the additional backpack flame-throwers and leave them only the weapons installed on the hull.
The crew of the car was to consist of five people. In front of the habitable compartment were placed the driver and commander. Control of weapons in the form of machine guns and flamethrowers was entrusted to three shooters located in the former troop compartment.
The absence of serious alterations of the base vehicle allowed the Sd.Kfz.251 / 16 self-propelled flamethrower to keep the main characteristics at the level of an armored personnel carrier. The total length still did not exceed 6 m, width - 2,1 m. Due to the installation of flamethrowers with shields, the height increased to 2,1 m. km
Combat use of self-propelled flamethrower. Photo by Pro-tank.ru
The first prototype of a self-propelled flamethrower based on a semi-tracked armored personnel carrier was built in January 1943. According to some reports, the basis for this machine was the Bd Sd.Kfz.251 modification Ausf.C. There is evidence that the first prototype was not equipped with a front machine gun. The prototype was tested and showed its potential. It was found that such a self-propelled flamethrower can be used in urban environments, which are characterized by small distances between different objects. According to the test results, the car was recommended for adoption and the start of mass production.
The serial production of self-propelled flamethrowers was entrusted to the company WUMAG. This technique was proposed both to build on the basis of the new chassis, and to assemble on the basis of armored personnel carriers returned to the rear for repair. The base for the flamethrowers became BTR modifications Ausf.C and Ausf.D. Regardless of the specific type of base machine, the same equipment was used. In 1944, the Sd.Kfz.251 / 16 project was adjusted. Due to the lack of need, wearable flame-throwers were removed from the machine, and in addition, they returned the front machine gun with an armored shield, which was used on the base armored personnel carrier.
During 1943-44, the manufacturer managed to assemble and transfer to 347 troops new self-propelled flamethrowers. Thus, Sd.Kfz.251 / 16 became the most massive German machine with built-in flamethrowing armament. For comparison, the number of other vehicles of similar purpose rarely exceeded 10-20 machines. The record, in turn, belonged to a flamethrower tank Pz.Kpfw. B2 (f), built on the basis of captured French equipment - the troops received 60 of such machines.
Reconstruction of the appearance of a self-propelled flamethrower based on the Bdr Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf.D. Figure Achtungpanzer.com
In August, 1943 of the year was determined by the staff of the units equipped with new equipment. Six self-propelled flamethrowers were reduced to flamethrower platoons at staff companies of the panzergrenadier regiments. In just a few months, on November 1 of the same year, it was decided to transfer the flamethrower platoons to the engineering regiment companies. Later, another decision was made to reorganize flamethrower platoons. By the beginning of 1945, the German command decided that in every tank division there should be 90 armored Sd.Kfz.251 armored personnel carriers, including six flamethrowing vehicles.
In view of the specific characteristics of the firing range, self-propelled flamethrowers of the new model were mainly used during urban battles. Other use of such equipment was inexpedient, and could also be associated with increased risks. In addition, even in optimal conditions, Sd.Kfz.251 / 16 needed armored vehicles and infantry escorts.
The self-propelled flamethrower Sd.Kfz.251 / 16 became the most massive representative of its class, who was in service with the German army. Nevertheless, even the release of 347 machines did not allow to have a noticeable effect on the course of the battles. A relatively small number of upgraded armored personnel carriers, as well as the ambiguous characteristics of their main weapons did not allow to count on widespread use in any battles. As a result, even the most successful and numerous self-propelled flamethrower of Nazi Germany remained in stories as a development of primarily technical interest.
Chamberlain P., Doyle H. Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War. - M .: AST: Astrel, 2008.
Ardashev A., Fedoseev S. Flamethrower tanks and hand-held flamethrowers in battle. - M .: Eksmo, Yauza, 2013.