(Sorry, Lord, it's a constatation...)
A) A short approach of the Scouting function.
A definition of Scouting:
"Mission undertaken to obtain, by visual observation or other detection methods, information about the activities and resources of an enemy or potential enemy, or to secure data concerning the meteorological, hydrographic or geographic characteristics of a particular area. Also called RECON." (Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, US Department Of Defense, 2005.)
This is again a subject to be shared by AFVs and Airplanes models collectors !!!
On every continent, the Art of War gave the same obligations:
- to know where is the Enemy,
- how much he is and what he is doing,
- and report to the command to adapt combat strategy.
That's the Scout and screening function.
In the first times foot soldiers plaid this role, with the slowness we can imagine... but as all fighters were infantrymen at the time, nor distances nor speed were really a problem !
As centuries passed, horses were more and more employed, such as wagons. Mobility improved and the Scouting duties became more and more a Cavalry task, though well camouflaged infantrymen could operate from uneven or forested places, then ride horses to return to camps. In the same time, reaction speed to new situations had to increase and the intelligence had to be transmitted faster for quicker situation knowledge, thus permitting adapted quicker strategic actions. The word "Scout" makes me always think of American natives ...:
Indian scouts before the battle...
Warm Spring Indian scouts in the fields, in front of the magic box...But...Damned! Who's keeping horses?
The XXieth Century saw 2 World conflicts.
WWI introduced the mechanized war, with large Battlefleet, Transport trucks, tanks, and planes, though using widely Cavalry regiments as main fast weapons: Uhlans, Hussars, Dragons aso. (did they shine in their bright armors, as with the 18th-19ieth centuries Kings armies or during the Napoleonian wars ?) !!!...:
French Artillery men and horses pausing in a pool.
The Scouting function stayed the prerogative of Cavalry small fast units for the ground based war, but the air scouting (balloons then planes) appeared with altitude photographies of the battlefields, as well ground or sea based. In the same time, small units of "MG-Armored Cars" or "auto-mitrailleuses" tried to play the Scouting role too, but without the Cavalry impediments clearing easiness ...
WWII developped these new technologies, though horses were still widely used from both sides during the early war years...:
In all the belligerant "modern" countries, disappeared the Scouting Cavalry role for the benefit of fast slightly armored cars, as well tracked, semi-tracked or wheels equipped (that will be the object of this post). These new cars are the direct heirs of the Cavalry traditions, not only for the Scouting function, but also for quick breakthroughs, protecting flanks of heaviest devices army groups such as main battle tanks, motorized artillery then Troops transports (add the airplanes and you got the "Blitzkrieg").
New Scouting mechanized devices had appeared as soon as the 20ies, such as the German SdKfz 13 "Adler", looking still a WWI vehicle...:
The Daimler SdKfz 13 "Adler".
SdKfz 13 Adlers with MG 13 machine gun.
But let's focuse on the Scouting function.
Nowadays, these principles are still the same. Light or medium 4x4, 6x6 and 6x8 vehicles are used for scouting, such as helicopters, high altitude planes, satellites, and drones.
Their mission: Intelligence without being seen (or out of reach of conventional weapons for air/space scouting) and clearing in an easier way than conventional vehicles all kind of obstacles. A very important other mission too is to be fulfilled, specially for terrestrial means: to be able to overcome any enemy scouting element when met, and to be able of self-supported actions by using gun calibers such as 7.5cm to 10.5cm and even 12.0cm as an exemple, when meeting superior forces.
Now, let's speak about a particular family of Scout armored cars, the German SdKfz 23x "8rad" series.
A SdKfz 231 8 rad model (1/43 Schuco), the "smarties" camo of which looks quite approximative !!!....
Again Nazi Germany devices could you tell me? Yes, I know! A lot of us collectors seem to have a predilection for these Evil devoted machines but it's an evidence that some of the biggest improvements of XX and XXI centuries owe something to German 40ies scientists and technicians.
Wernher von Braun developped the V2 before becoming the father of the Moon conquest. And could have it been X1, X15, Space Shuttle, A380, B787 and some other jet airliners without the Messerschmitts 163, 262 and the Arado 234? Not sure, at least not now...
On the other hand, these 8 rad AFVs appeared only at this time in the German divisions, and there was no similar concept in the Allied side - except with the M8/M20 US Scout 6 wheels armored cars - ...:
It's a pity that such millions of lives had to pay for these improvements and that satanic deviance.
Sorry for the digression, but this had to be said once before getting farther.
B) The German answers.
All these SdKfz recco models were used in front of Panzer, Panzer Grenadier or Wehrmacht Ländser divisions and had to comply with the early following conditions:
- Speed and impediments clearing abilities,
- Short, Mid and Long radion transmission abilities for action synchronization and intelligence/orders transmission,
- Self-defense and minimum attack abilities (against enemy scouting or Infantry elements).
4x4 Spähwagen (scouting cars) were developped in the 30ies to give the SdKfz 221, 222, 223, 261 ... aso.
Some utility cars such the VW Type 82 Kübelwagen (this is the nickname or short for "K Belsitzwagen" - bucket seat car) or the VW/Porsche type 166 amphibian "Schwimmwagen" were used too as scouting cars...:
SdKfz 221, Poland 1939.
SdKfz 222, Italy 1944.
SdKfz 222 of the Deutsches Afrika Korps (DAK), 1942.
SdKfz 222 (1/48 HM model).
SdKfz 222: 1/48 HM and 1/72 Dragon Armor models.
SdKfz 222 of the DAK, 1/72 Altaya/IXO model.
SdKfz 223 Funkwagen (SdKfz 221 Radio car) of the DAK (1/72 Dragon Armor model). For information: the SdKfz 260/261 is an unarmed Funkwagen with no turret (Sd.Kfz.260 was equipped with medium range radio set with a rod antenna, while Sd.Kfz.261 with long range radio set and frame antenna):
The need for heaviest vehicles emerged quite simultaneously, as the light and nimble 4x4 lack of enemy fire resistance.
OK, men !! Let's go on the Sonder Kraft Fahrzeug (SdKfz in short, or "Special purposes vehicle") 23x Schhwerer PanzerSpähwagen (Heavy Armored Recco cars) and derivative vehicles, the concept of which influences til now a lot of modern Scouting, Troops transport and Attack AFVs.
The SdKfz 23x series began in the 30ies with 6 rad 4x6 models which proved to be adapted to most of regular grounds but quickly overcome in rough conditions. They were widely used during the Poland, then the French campaigns. These were the SdKfz 231, SdKfz 232 and SdKfz 263...:
SdKfz 231, 1/72 Altaya/IXO model.
The 8 wheels SdKfz 23x appeared in 1937 in replacement of the 6 wheels models, keeping the same id with the suffix "8 rad" (for:"8 wheels"). For instance, The SdKfz 231 would be replaced with the SdKfz 231 8 rad.
The 3 axle truck chassis was replaced with a pair of 2 axle 4 wheels trucks for an eight-wheeled all wheel drive all wheel steering chassis to improve off road capabilities and manoeuverability.
They kept the same weaponry: a 2cm KwK 30 auto-cannon and a 0.79cm MG13 machine gun, but in a hexagonal shaped new turret for the 8 rad models.
Two SdKfz 231 8 rad, 1/72 Altaya/IXO models.
The crew was 4: commander, gunner, driver and radio operator/rear driver. YES, a rear driver !!
Effectively, one of the biggest improvements of the 8 rad vs the 6 rad version was that the SdKfz 23x 8 rad was able to go back instantly in case of problem, as the 8 wheels were steering and drive ones, and that all gears were available as well forward and rearward !
The 6 wheels version had only the traditional 2 forward wheels as steering ones. It was therefore less easy to drive this model backwards and slower than in forward motion.
In the 1939 Poland and the 1940 French campaigns, both 6 wheels and 8 wheels SdKfz 23x were employed.
The SdKfz 232 (FU for Funkwagen - Radio car) was a medium range radio equipped 231. Particularity: the antenna is supported on the turret by a tripod allowing that to be 360° freely operated. Both 6 rad and 8 rad existed...:
SdKfz 231 and 232.
SdKfz 232 among SdKfz 231s, 1936. On the background, two SdKfz 221 4x4 are visible.
SdKfz 13 Adler and SdKfz 232.
The SdKfz 263 Funkwagen was a long range radio equipped model with fixed turret (6 wheels) being replaced with a higher monobloc fixed hull and a simple MG defensive weapon (8 rad). As for the precedent refs, both 6 rad versions (with a fixed turret) and 8 rad (with elevated fixed hull) coexisted, till all 6 rad models being relegated to 2nd tasks as police and training role and progressively replaced with the 8 rad models early 1942...:
SdKfz 263 with fixed turret (identifiable by the forward fixations of the antenna on the turret, allowing no rotation of it).
Later with the evolution of the war, German command decided:
- to strengthen the Scout units with their own field artillery (Assault gun vehicles equipped with the short barrelled 7.5cm "Stummel" gun),
- then to use all kind of AFVs to engage enemy tanks to try and brake Allied advance (AT equipment with the PAK 40 7.5cm or the KwK 39 5cm guns).
These 2 last wills explain the late issuing of the SdKfz 251/9 and 251/22 semi tracked AFVs and the 8 wheels SdKfz 233, SdKfz 234/3, 234/2 "Puma", and SdKfz 234/4. These last vehicles didn't need the suffix "8 rad", as no 6 rad versions existed, and as the SdKfz 234 were bright new improved AFVs...:
SdKfz 233 "Stummel" (only 8 rad version, so the suffix "8 rad" is omitted):
1/43 Eaglemoss/IXO model Item N°21 - SdKfz 233 Schwerer PanzerSpähwagen “Stummel” (so called as it was armed with the short barrel 75mm KwK L/24 Stummel Cannon), 2nd Panzer Aufklärung Abteilung (PzAufklAbt)= Armored Recco Battalion -, 2nd Pz Div, Falaise, Normandie, France, 1944.
The SdKfz 234 series:
The SdKfz 234 series was a totally rethought 8 rad vehicles family using most of the 231-232-233-263 components but on a new improved chassis and presenting a better ballistic protection.
The SdKfz 234/1 equivalent of the SdKfz 231 with same weaponry:
One 2cm KwK 30 L55 auto cannon + one 0.79cm MG34:
Any doubt the best of the SdKfz 23x 8rad series and the standard for further modern AFVs.
Main weapon: 1 x 5 cm KwK 39 L/60, 1 x MG34.
Employed a fully enclosed turret originally designed for the VK1602 Leopard light tank. The turret front was protected by 30 mm armor set at an angle of 20° from the vertical. The sides and rear had 10 mm armor set at 25°, and the top plate was 10 mm armor. The gun mantlet was rounded and was 40 to 100 mm thick.
101 units were produced between September 1943 and September 1944. Used intensively in Normandy in 1944 by the ill-fated PanzerLehr, which paid a high tribute to the RAF's Hawker Typhoons and USAF P47s and P38s.
HM 1/72 SdKfz 234/2, 2nd Pz Divizion, Normandy, France, 1944.
1/43 Eaglemoss/IXO model - SdKfz 234/2 "Puma",”423”, 20ieth Panzer Aufklärungs Abteilung, 20ieth Pz. Division, Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, 1945. Gun proportions incorrect: gun barrel too thin.
The SdKfz 234/3:
The Stummel equipped version of the 234 series.
SdKfz 234/3 showing the short barreled 7.5cm K51 L24 "Stummel" main gun.
The SdKfz 234/4 "Pakwagen":
Equipped with the 7.5cm PAK 40 L48 AT gun in open-topped superstructure replacing the turret.
89 units built between December 1944 and March 1945.
The Bovington specimen of SdKfz 234/4 "PAKwagen".
SdKfz 234/4, 1/72 HM Model.
SdKfz 234/4, Altaya/IXO 1/72 model.
From these mandatories were born all the 8 rad series. Their limits were encountered in the Russian mud, but their latest developments, the 234 series, and especially the SdKfz 234/2 "Puma" which fought most of its campaign life in Normandy, threw the bases of all subsequent modern 8 wheels AFVs.
C) The Heirs.
Here are a few of their heirs, it's yours to complete the list !!!...:
First is a German AFV, direct heir of the SdKfz23x series: the Daimler-Benz Luchs A1 Spähwagen, introduced in the Bundeswehr in 1975:
Luchs A1 Spähwagen of the KFOR (ONU Kosovo Force deployed in Kosovo since the 12th June 1999).
M1128 Stryker, USA, 2005 (1/72 Altaya/IXO model).
B1 Centauro, Italy, 2002 (1/72 Altaya/IXO model).
B1 Centauro of the IFOR - The Implementation Force (IFOR) was a NATO-led multinational peacekeeping force in Bosnia and Herzegovina under a one-year mandate from 20 December 1995 to 20 December 1996 under the codename Operation Joint Endeavour.
Different liveries of B1 Centauros, 1/72 Altaya/IXO models.
This post will be updated as I get new docs/photos.
Some interesting links:
SdKfz 231 6 wheels :
SdKfz 231 8 rad short movie :
SdKfz 232 8 rad (rc model !!!):
SdKfz 233 8 rad:
Wikipedia article link:
Ciao all and take care!
A very interesting article Jeff. I just wanted to add that indeed scouting is a very old method that was employed in wars since ancient times. It was also discussed in the oldest of war literature. Taking Sun Tzu's famous book called "The Art of War" as an example (which is a very VERY old book), you will find that the last chapter is called:
1- Lionel Giles Translation (1910): The Use of Spies
2- R.L. Wing Translation (1988): The Use of Intelligence
3- Ralph D. Sawyer Translation (1996): Employing Spies
4- Chow-Hou Wee Translation (2003):Intelligence and Espionage
This chapter discusses the importance of developing good information sources, and specifies the five types of intelligence sources and how to best manage each of them.Scouting is surely one of the methods that can be applied to obtain information.
Thanks Jeff for the nice article :).
Smart complement !! Thank you, Ahmed !! (though with some lateness !!!)