Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär Sd. Kfz. 166
Sturmgeschütz IV mit 15cm StuH 43
"Fuhrer is convinced that immediately after the delivery of Sturmpanzers (Brummbaers) to the units there will be great need for this type of vehicles." – Albert Speer.
In early 1942, Alkett was ordered to design and produce a new Sturmpanzer with Krupp’s cooperation. Alkett was in charge of designing the sloped armor superstructure mounting a 150mm assault/attack howitzer, which was to be placed on a standard Panzerkampfwagen IV chassis modified by Krupp. Since all previous vehicles, such as Sturmhaubitze 42 (Sd.Kfz.142/2) and Stug 33, were considered only as temporary models ("interim solution"), Albert Speer ordered the development of Sturmpanzer IV. In fact, the Stug 33 can be considered the direct forerunner of BrummbÃ¤r.
During a conference on October 2, 1942, Speer presented the plans of a new Sturmpanzer and on October 14, 1942, designs were shown to Adolf Hitler. Based on these designs, Hitler ordered production of 40 to 60 new vehicles that should be ready by spring 1943. The new Sturmpanzer was to use the Panzerkampfwagen IV chassis and the 150mm StuH 43 L/12 gun (developed into a tank mounted weapon from the sIG 33 by Skoda). At the same time, Hitler also requested that the new design be mounted with a 210mm or 220mm mortar, but this never happened. In February 1943, Skoda produced a wooden prototype of the new Sturmpanzer IV (Sturmpanzer 43). The vehicle was designated Sd.Kfz.166, SturmgeschÃ¼tz IV mit 15cm StuH 43.
Prototype of Sturmpanzer IV.
Soon after, the first series of 60 was ordered. In March 1943, six were completed and, by the end of April, another 40 were produced. The final 14 were made in May 1943, filling the order. All 60 were built on mainly new chassis, but some used rebuilt chassis. The new chassis were provided by Nibelungenwerke in St. Valentin. This first series used 52 new Ausf G chassis and eight rebuilt Ausf E and Ausf F chassis. It was then decided that future production would use rebuilt chassis. The vehicles were completed at the Heereszeugamt Wien (Army Depot in Vienna) in cooperation with Saurerwerke and Simmering-Graz-Pauker. After extensive tests and demand from the frontline units, Hitler ordered the start of Sturmpanzer IV production. On May 14/15, 1943, Sturmpanzer IV was officially presented to the leaders of the Third Reich at the Army Base in Arys (Orzysz) in East Prussia.
Early Sturmpanzer IV
Sturmpanzer IV from Sturmpanzerabteilung 216, Italy, 1944.
(Early production model)
Full production was planned to start in late May 1943, but the first vehicles were produced in November of 1943 due to delays in chassis delivery. They were assembled at Heereszeugamt Wien (Army Depot in Vienna) until May 1944. Early Sturmpanzer IVs suffered from a weight problem, since the recoil and weight (1,850kg/4,070 lbs) of the 150mm StuH 43 L/12 proved to be too much for the Panzerkampfwagen IV chassis and made the vehicle top heavy. In addition, early vehicles were prone to transmission problems and were underpowered, resulting in high fuel consumption. They also lacked a machine gun in the front hull and were easy targets for tank-killer squads and infantry in general. An MP 40 submachine gun was carried inside the superstructure for close combat purposes and could be fired through pistol ports in the sides of the superstructure.
Early vehicles were operated by a crew of four men, rather than five – the loader also worked as the radioman. The driver’s position in the first vehicles was fitted with the Fahrersehklappe 80 vision port adapted from the Tiger I heavy tank. They also suffered from mechanical problems because of sabotage by Czech workers. Most of the early vehicles were lost during fighting at the Kursk salient and later during the Kharkov battles and Dneprstroy, as well as the vicious fighting for a small hamlet called Himmelreich. In October 1943, it was decided to modify the superstructure and the gun to lower overall weight. In December 1943, a new and lighter version of the gun, designated 150mm StuH 43/1 L/12, was produced. In December 1943, full production of the second series started and 80 were built. Vehicles from the new series featured some modifications (e.g. driver’s position with periscope) but the problem with the overloaded chassis was not solved until introduction of lighter armament. In January 1944, Sturmpanzer IV was officially designated Sturmpanzer IV but was also called Sturmpanzer 43. The name BrummbÃ¤r (Grizzly Bear) was not an official name and possibly was not used at all.
Sturmpanzer IV Brummbar
(Mid production model)
In mid 1944, the BrummbÃ¤r superstructure was redesigned. Production continued until March 1945 – the third and fourth series – with 166 produced. The last models were known as the Abschlusserie. Late-production models had a ball-mounted MG34 (Kugelblende 80 adapted from the Tiger I) in the front plate of the superstructure. The gun collar and entire layout of the upper part of the superstructure were changed, thus reducing the height of the vehicle. The commander received a cupola adapted from the StuG III Ausf G assault gun. Late-production models were also equipped with schÃ¼rzen and were commonly covered with Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste. In addition, a newer commander’s cupola with an anti-aircraft gun mount was fitted. Vehicles from the last series didn’t have any of the problems of their predecessors and proved to be effective and important weapons to the Panzerwaffe. The late-production BrummbÃ¤rs used Panzerkampfwagen IV Ausf H chassis, with one or two pairs of steel road wheels per side, and on Ausf J chassis with all steel road wheels.
The only problem that haunted BrummbÃ¤r throughout its life was limited storage space in the superstructure. Only 38 heavy 150mm rounds were carried, making the operations of the 5-man crew difficult due to the lack of space. Ammunition weight varied from 25kg (61 lbs) for anti-tank rounds to 38kg (81 lbs) for high explosive. The 150mm assault howitzer was ball-mounted in a 100mm frontal plate that was slightly offset to the right. The howitzer was fitted with a Sfl.Z.F.1a (Selbstfahrlafetten-Zielfernrohr) (5×8) gun sight and could be elevated from -8 to + 30 degrees and traversed by 15 degrees to the left and right. First series vehicles armed with the StuH 43 had a short armored sleeve on the barrel. Later models with the StuH 43/1 had a longer armored sleeve. All vehicles were fitted with a FuG 2 USW receiver and a 10-watt FuG 5 transmitter/receiver, as well as intercom for crew communications. The crew in late models was composed of five men – the commander, who sat behind the howitzer, two loaders, a gunner and a driver, who sat in his own compartment on the front left.
From March 1943 to March 1945, 298(306) Sturmpanzer IVs and Sturmpanzer IV BrummbÃ¤rs were produced in four series – chassis number 80501 to unknown; 80801-84400; 86601-87100; and 89101 to unknown. All of the vehicles were built on brand new or rebuilt Panzerkampfwagen IV chassis. Various parts were made by different contractors (e.g. armor by Bismarckhuette in Upper Silesia and Eisenwerke Oberdonau in Linz) and were assembled at first by Heereszeugamt Wien (Army Depot in Vienna) and, from June 1944, at Deutsche Eisenwerke at Duisburg. Heereszeugamt Wien produced 140 vehicles and Deutsche Eisenwerke made 166.
Sturmpanzer IV Brummbar (Late production model)
in Musee des Blindes in Saumur, France.
The vehicle has been applied with a coat of Zimmerit anti-magnetic paste.
Picture provided by Eric Peytavin.
The Sturmpanzer IV BrummbÃ¤r was a close-range direct-fire weapon that was developed for street fighting. It was very effective against dug-in infantry positions, buildings and almost any kind of stronghold. They were also used as support vehicles for panzergrenadier and infantry units.
"We always were considered a ‘fire brigade’ unit, and always were used when the infantry was in trouble and lots of artillery had to be brought down at the enemy and fast. More than one infantry regiment blessed us after we had smashed a heavy attack of the enemy…Funny thing, though. As happy as the commanders of the supported units were when we smashed an enemy attack, the ‘Landsers’, the line infantry, were glad when we left, because enemy artillery fire was pounding them to hell while we were there. They could not change the locations of their fox holes, but we could move back and forth and sideways to escape enemy artillery at least to some extent" – Joseph Scharrer, 3rd Company of Sturmpanzerabteilung 216, from May of 1943 to October of 1944.
The Sturmpanzer was also commonly known to the troops as "Stupa". A small number of mid/late production BrummbÃ¤rs was used as command vehicles and were fitted with extra radios and antennas. These were called Bef.Stu.Pz.IV (Befehlsturmpanzer IV). Krupp wanted to use BrummbÃ¤r’s chassis and superstructure to create a Jagdpanzer IV armed with the 88mm Pak 43 L/71 gun, but only one prototype was produced.
Sturmpanzer IV Brummbar (Mid production model).
Sturmpanzer IVs were formed into Sturmpanzerabteilungs. Each Sturmpanzerabteilung had 45 Sturmpanzer IVs along with 85 other vehicles (e.g. SdKfz.9) and 611 officers and soldiers.
First unit to be equipped with Brummbars began forming in April of 1943. This unit was to receive 50 out of 60 vehicles already produced, while the rest was to be put in reserve. Newly formed unit – Sturmpanzerabteilung 216 was moved to Amiens area in France for training. The unit began moving to the Eastern Front on June 10th of 1943. Sturmpanzer IV Brummbaers had their debut with Sturmpanzerabteilung 216 (part of 656 sPanzerjaeger Regiment commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Jungenfeld) as part of Army Group Mitte (Center) at Kursk (Summer of 1943). Sturmpanzerabteilung 216 took part in the first combat action on July 5th, but its elements continued arriving into battle as late as July 18th. Jungenfeld was awarded the Knight’s Cross after Kursk and was promoted to full Colonel after battle of Charkov.
After Kursk, unit was refitted and was back in action in September of 1943. Sturmpanzerabteilung 216 saw combat in Russia until mid December of 1943, when it was moved back to Germany for refitting. In February of 1944, unit was moved to Italy, to the area of Anzio and Nettuno. Sturmpanzerabteilung 216 remained in combat in Italy until April of 1945, when last Brummbars were destroyed by their crews at the area of Lake Garda.
Sturmpanzerabteilung 217 was formed from April to June of 1944 at Grafenwohr. In July of 1944, it was send to Normandy, south-east of Caen. Part of Sturmpanzerabteilung 217 was destroyed at Falaise, while the rest withdrew into Holand and took part in defence of Aachen. In December, Sturmpanzerabteilung 217 took part in the German offensive in Ardennes. Following this action, Sturmpanzerabteilung 217 continued retreating into Germany to finally surrender in the Ruhr Pocket in April of 1945.
Befehl-Sturmpanzer IV Brummbar – Command Version
(Late production model)
In August of 1944, two independent companies were formed – Sturmpanzer-Kompanie z.b.V. 218 and Sturmpanzer-Kompanie z.b.V. 2/218. Sturmpanzer-Kompanie z.b.V. 218 and Sturmpanzer-Kompanie z.b.V. 2/218 had 10 Brummbars each.
Sturmpanzer-Kompanie z.b.V. 218 was moved to Warsaw on August 13th and took part in the German attempt to crush the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, as part of Combat Group Reinefarth. Unit remained in Poland and was to be part of new Sturmpanzerabteilung 218 that started forming in January of 1945. New Soviet offensive put an end to it and remnants of the unit ended up in Kampfgruppe Grossdeutschland.
Sturmpanzer-Kompanie z.b.V. 2/218 was moved to Paris area in August of 1944, but its further combat record is unknown.
Sturmpanzerabteilung 218 began forming in January of 1945 and was ready for combat in March with 43 Brummbärs. In April, the entire unit was converted to Panzer-Jaeger-Verband.
In September of 1944, at Dollersheim, Sturmpanzerabteilung 219 was formed. In December, entire unit was moved to the area of Lake Velencei in Hungary. In January of 1945, Sturmpanzerabteilung 219 as part of 23rd Panzer Division took part in fighting in the area of Budapest. In March, unit lost all of its Brummbars and was moved to Czechoslovakia, where it was refitted with 10 Brummbars and captured Soviet tanks. In April, it was moved without equipment to Waidhofen and became part of Panzer-Jagd-Brigade "Trumpa".
Today, Sturmpanzer IV Brummbär can be seen at the Musee des Blindes in Saumur, France; at Panzermuseum Munster in Germany; NIIBT Research Collection, Kubinka, Russia; and at the U.S. Army Ordnance Museum at Aberdeen Proving Ground, USA.