Recall that the project 15 cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw. 38 (t) Ausf.H or Grille Aufs.H was one of several attempts to use the available light Tanks Pz.Kpfw. 38 (t) in new quality. Such armored vehicles were already considered obsolete and could not be fully used for their intended purpose, although they still had certain prospects as the basis for new technology. In 1942, the company Böhmisch-Mährische Maschinenfabrik AG (now ČKD, Czech Republic) developed a project for a minor alteration of a light tank with the installation of a 150-mm gun. In early February of next year, the German army initiated mass production of such equipment.
In parallel with the creation of a new self-propelled gun based on an existing light tank, BMM specialists worked on another version of the Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) update. The new project proposed to rework the design of the tank and change some of its features, which made it possible to use the machine as a more convenient basis for new self-propelled guns. By the end of 1942, the first project of a self-propelled artillery gun was created, in which a new chassis was used. On the basis of such a chassis, the Marder III ACS was to be built using one of the later modifications.
In February 1943, it was decided to start mass production of already created ACS 15 cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.H. In addition, it was necessary to develop a new version of self-propelled guns using a similar weaponsbuilt on the basis of a different chassis. This project received the symbol 15 cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M. In addition, the name Grille (“Cricket”) has been preserved, which can also be used as Grille Ausf.M.
The chassis of the new type, designed specifically for advanced self-propelled guns, was based on the design of the existing light tank, but had some noticeable differences. First of all, the purpose of this project was to change the layout of the internal volumes, which made it possible to obtain the optimal architecture for the ACS with the aft arrangement of the fighting compartment. Such a change required to transfer the engine compartment, modify the transmission and change some other chassis units.
General view of the self-propelled gun. Photo of Chamberlain P., Doyle H. "Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War"
The base armored vehicle for the new self-propelled guns was to receive a new layout with the front placement of the transmission and control station, the central engine compartment and the aft fighting compartment. It was also proposed to change the design of the case in order to simplify the assembly and some improvement in the basic characteristics. So, instead of several sheets placed at different angles to the vertical, the frontal part of the body should have been formed with two parts of 20 mm thickness: the vertical bottom and the top filled up back. On the upper frontal part, on the starboard side, a small cabin was placed to protect the driver, which had a wall thickness of 15 mm. In the front and right side sheets cutting provided viewing devices.
The 20-mm boards should have been docked with 15-mm front plates. The stern guard was provided with 10-mm parts. On the roof of the hull, above its stern part, it was proposed to mount the armored wheelhouse. The frontal part of the cabin should have been made in the form of two parts mounted inclined inward at an angle to the axis of the machine. There were also piled inside the side with a sloping rear and feed a small height. All the details of the cabin was proposed to perform from 10-mm armor. Between the two frontal sheets was placed a swinging sheet, which served as the mask of the gun. When the trunk was raised, it had to rise upwards, and when it was lowered, it would return to the horizontal position.
In the central part of the body should be installed carburetor Praga AC engine power 145 hp Due to a slight increase in power, it was supposed to compensate for the possible increase in the combat mass of the finished equipment and maintain the required mobility indicators. In connection with the movement of the engine from the stern to the center of the hull, the project authors had to seriously rework the layout of the engine compartment. In particular, the possibility of using intake grilles of the cooling system has disappeared. installed in the roof. The new project involved the use of air intakes and exhaust pipes placed in fenders.
The upgraded chassis retained manual transmissions based on a six-speed gearbox. The only noticeable difference in the new transmission from the basic design was the use of a shorter shaft. Due to the transfer of the engine, the need to transfer torque with the help of a long shaft going over the floor of the crew compartment was gone.
The chassis of the updated chassis has undergone minimal changes. It was based on four large diameter skating rinks on each side, interlocked in pairs and equipped with leaf springs. In front of the hull were placed the driving wheels, in the stern - guides. It was decided to reduce the number of support rollers. A single pair of such parts had to be placed between the second and third track rollers, due to which the upper branch of the caterpillar could sag and contact with the latter.
The main feature of the new chassis was the transfer of the fighting compartment to the stern, which gave some advantages over the existing models. Thus, it was possible to provide acceptable centering of the machine with the installation of the most heavy units near the geometric center of the structure. In addition, there was a significant gain in size: the floor of the fighting compartment turned out to be the bottom of the hull, which made it possible to reduce the overall dimensions of the vehicle. This led to a reduction in the weight of the structure, as well as a decrease in visibility on the battlefield and a decrease in the probability of defeat.
The 15 ACS cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M was supposed to be an upgraded version of the previous model and, as a result, receive similar weapons. The “main caliber” of the self-propelled gun was to be the 15 cm sIG 33 gun. Heavy infantry weapons caliber 150 mm equipped with a barrel length 11 calibers and was designed to destroy various targets and enemy targets. Initially, the sIG 33 system was produced in a towed version, but later several self-propelled gun projects with similar weapons appeared. The installation of the gun on the chassis made it possible to maintain high firepower and to ensure acceptable mobility on the battlefield.
The gun received a rifled barrel, a horizontal sliding bolt and hydropneumatic anti-recoil devices. The ammunition consisted of several types of separate loading ammunition designed for solving different tasks. The initial velocity of the shells depended on their types and reached 240 m / s, the maximum firing range was 4,7 km. An expert calculation could make up to three shots per minute.
The 15 ACU cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M, like its predecessors, was supposed to receive an installation for mounting the gun based on some units of the basic towing carriage. Manual guidance mechanisms and a Rblf36 sight remained. The installation of the gun in the armored wheelhouse made it possible to direct it within the horizontal sector 10 ° wide (5 ° right and left from the neutral position). The permissible vertical guidance angles were to some extent limited by the design of the movable mask and could vary from 0 ° to + 73 °.
The combat branch of the museum self-propelled. Photo Svsm.org
Inside the fighting compartment, several 18 shells and shells were placed on them. This was enough to fire for some time, after which the self-propelled gun needed to replenish the ammunition.
Additional equipment SAU Grille Ausf.M consisted of one 7,92-mm MG 34 machine gun. The machine gun was proposed to be transported in laying and removed from it, if necessary, self-defense. Any regular attachments that allow to keep the machine gun at all times were not envisaged by the project.
The composition of the self-propelled crew during the modernization has not changed. Like the previous machine, the 15 cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M ACS were to be controlled by four people: a driver, a gunner, a charging, and a radio operator. The driver was placed in the front of the case and defended by a frontal sheet, as well as a small superstructure. To monitor the road, the driver had two sight gauges in his wheelhouse.
Three other crew members housed in the fighting compartment. To the left of the gun was the workplace of the commander who controlled the gun. To the right of the gun and behind the commander were supposed to be two loaders, one of whom was also responsible for operating the FuG 16 radio station.
Self-propelled gun with its own name Feuerteufel ("Fiery hell") in firing position. Photo of Wikimedia Commons
Due to a slight elongation of the aft hull, the dimensions of the self-propelled guns slightly increased in comparison with the previous technique based on the Pz.Kpfw.38 (t). The length reached 4,95 m, width - 2,15 m, height - 2,45 m. The combat weight was 12 t. The use of a more powerful engine made it possible to compensate for some increase in weight and maintain mobility approximately at the level of the previous machine. Like Grille Ausf.H, the new Grille Ausf.M could reach speeds of up to 35 km / h and travel at a single fuel station to 180-190 km.
Soon after the project was completed, a prototype ACS prototype was built, followed by an order for the production of serial equipment. The first 15 cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M machines were assembled in April 1943. Having mastered the construction of this technology, the BMM plant stopped the further assembly of the machines of the previous model. The task of the enterprise, according to the first order, was the construction of 200 self-propelled guns based on new chassis.
The last batch of new SAU was completed in June of the same year. According to some reports, after the production of 90 machines, it was decided to use the chassis, which had undergone additional modernization, as a result of which the technique of the first lots had some insignificant differences from the subsequent machines. Due to the situation at the front, new self-propelled guns were quickly transferred to the customer and distributed to various units of the army without any serious delays.
In October, 1943, the German command decided to make a new order for the supply of ACS Grille Ausf.M. It was planned to build a significant number of new equipment, but the situation at the front and the numerous problems of the industry did not allow to fully implement all the plans. The assembly of self-propelled guns continued until September 1944, after which it was decided to roll it. One of the main reasons for stopping the construction of such machines was a sharp reduction in the production of the required chassis. Because of this, in particular, the latest 10 "Crickets" were collected on the chassis base of the Flakpanzer 38 (t) anti-aircraft self-propelled gun.
From October 1943 to September 1944, BMM was able to produce only 82 self-propelled guns. Thus, for the entire time of production of the German army, 282 machines of the 15 type cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M, including several units of equipment on non-standard chassis, were supplied.
By the beginning of 1944, a draft of a special vehicle was designed for transporting ammunition in order to ensure the combat operation of the Grille self-propelled guns of both versions. The Munitionspanzer 38 (t) machine was as unified as possible with a self-propelled artillery mount and could carry up to 40 X-mmX caliber shells of various types. The construction of ammunition carriers began in January of 150 and continued until May. No more than 44 such machines were built.
SAU Grille Ausf.M in Aberdeen Museum, tentatively 70-80 years. Photo Warandtactics.com
The launch of the production of an ACS 15 cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M had no effect on the structure of military units armed with heavy infantry guns on self-propelled chassis. With the help of new deliveries, existing heavy infantry cannons were reinforced, which were armed with several previous types of vehicles. The subunit structure also remained unchanged, although new platoons could appear in their composition. From the beginning of 1944, the artillery units began to receive ammunition carriers, unified with the latest self-propelled guns.
According to reports, self-propelled Grille Ausf.M were transferred to several dozen companies in the composition of more than 30 divisions. A large number and widespread allowed such technology to take part in battles on different parts of the fronts in Europe. For the first time, vehicles of the new type took part in the battles on the Eastern Front, and after the Allies landed in Normandy, part of the units armed with Crickets were engaged in battles in Western Europe.
Despite the difficult situation on all fronts, the German army managed to maintain a significant number of 15 cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M self-propelled guns almost to the very end of the hostilities. According to reports, in February 1945, the 173 self-propelled guns remained in service. In addition, some sources mention that one of the enterprises in Germany in the spring of 45 had to repair several combat vehicles and return them to the troops.
After the end of the war in Europe, the active operation of the 15 ACS cm SIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M stopped. Part of this technology was seized by the victor countries to study at their test sites. Others were eventually disposed of as unnecessary. Until our time, lived only one instance of "Cricket" modification "M". This car after the war was exported to the United States and studied at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. In the future, self-propelled guns made an exhibit of the museum at the test site.
The 15 cm sIG 33 (SF) auf Pz.Kpfw.38 (t) Ausf.M Grille project was the last German attempt to install a powerful 150-mm gun on a self-propelled chassis. As the production volumes of such equipment show, this attempt turned out to be the most successful. After several upgrades of the existing technology, German specialists managed to develop a machine that most fully met the customer's requirements. At the same time, however, some drawbacks characteristic of the previous similar techniques, such as low mobility and insufficient protection, were retained. However, this did not prevent the self-propelled guns from being actively used until the end of the war and incur minor losses. However, the Grille Ausf.M machines appeared relatively late, when the situation on the fronts began to change significantly. More than four hundred self-propelled guns "Cricket" of the two models could no longer have a serious impact on the course of the war.
Chamberlain P., Doyle H. Complete reference book of German tanks and self-propelled guns of the Second World War. - M .: AST: Astrel, 2008.