ww2 German Tanks Nazi Germany (1943-45)
Tank hunter – 394 built

A tank hunter fielding the feared 88 mm

After the first encounters with tanks like the T-34 and the KV-1 in the summer of 1941, the OKH was well aware that it had to quickly devise a response, in order to have the necessary firepower when needed. The long-period development projects, like the Panther and Tiger, were already on the agenda, but faster ways of fielding this kind of firepower were already available in the shape of self propelled guns, already tested and built since 1940.

This photograph of a Nashorn 88mm self-propelled gun was taken in January 1944.
This photograph of a Nashorn 88mm self-propelled gun was taken in January 1944.

Hello, dear reader! This article is in need of some care and attention and may contain errors or inaccuracies. If you spot anything out of place, please let us know!

These were proven solutions, fast-built at low cost. Older tank hunters equipped with the Pak 40 75 mm (2.95 in) gun, like the Marder, were barely sufficient against the KV-1, so the adoption of the most efficient piece in the German ordnance came as a necessity. Following the specifications of 1942, a tank hunter was planned to carry the ubiquitous 88 mm (3.46 in) gun. It was to be built by Alkett (Altmärkische Kettenwerke GmbH) in Berlin.


Alkett choose the Geschützwagen III/IV chassis to mount the heavy 8,8 cm Panzerabwehrkanone 43/1 L/71 (Pak 43/1), a lightweight version of the standard German AA gun, also mounted on the Tiger II tank.

The chassis was based on the Panzer IV, with the same suspension configuration with four bogies, each with two pairs of rubberized roadwheels, idlers at the rear and drive sprockets at the front, but lengthened and strengthened.

The hull armor was 30 mm (1.18 in) at the front, 20 mm (0.79 in) on the sides and 15 mm (0.59 in) for the rear plate. The engine was a Maybach HL 120 TRM Ausf.A V12 producing 300 hp@3000 rpm, with 11,867 L of displacement.

It was coupled with a ZF (Zahnradfabrik Friedrichshafen AG) SSG 77 Aphon transmission of the synchromesh manual type, with 6/1 gears. The driver had a Daimler-Benz/Wilson clutch/brake with a Fichtel & Sachs La 120 HDA dry clutch, triple disc.

The gun and its bearings were placed at the rear of the chassis, surrounded by an open-topped superstructure, which had a 15 mm (0.59 in) front and 10 mm (0.39 in) sides to protect the crew (only against shrapnel and small arms fire).

There was a 15 mm thick (0.59 in) gun shield inside the casemate, acting like an internal mantlet and allowing some traverse, 15° to either side and between -5° in depression and +15° in elevation. To balance the weight, the engine was shifted from its rear position to the center.

The gun was semiautomatic, with an horizontal sliding block, manual traverse and elevation. The casemate and hull could carry from 24 to 40 rounds, crammed into any space available, of the Pzgr.39 (Armor Piercing Composite Ballistic Cap) tungsten-core type, which could penetrate 132 mm (5.2 in) at 2000 m.

There was no secondary armament except one 7.92 mm (0.31 in) MG 34 or MG 42 machine-gun carried inside the vehicle, with 600 rounds in store. The gun was aimed by a gunner’s sight with a 5x magnification, 8° field of view, and had an indirect fire sight Aushilfsrichtmittel 38 with a 3x magnification, 10° field of view. There was also a FuG Spr.f radio.

Production & variants

The model, called “Hornisse” (Hornet) initially, was presented to Hitler in October 1942, approved, and production began in January 1943 as the 8,8 cm Pak 43 (L/71) auf Fahrgestell Panzerkampfwagen III/IV (Sf) or 8,8cm Pak 43 (L/71) auf Geschützwagen III/IV (Sd.Kfz.164).

In May 1943, a new model was introduced, featuring a new driver’s front armor plate, 15 mm (0.59 in) uniform gun shield and some other minor differences.

This new version represented the bulk of Alkett’s production until early 1944, when it was slowed but not stopped. Some models received the wider “Ostketten” tracks, adapted to the Russian winter and autumn, making the overall width rise to 3.17 m (10ft4), instead of 2.95 m (9ft8).

Hitler renamed it “Nashorn” (Rhinoceros) in 1944, and this name stuck to the series ever since. Some authors, however, make the distinction between the early and late series using the two names. By 1944, new tank hunters, with a lower silhouette and much better protection, like the Jagdpanther, were favored by the OKH.

The bulk of the 494 vehicles produced were delivered in 1943 (345), however the remainder were delivered discontinuously, 133 from February to November 1944, and only 16 from January to March 1945.

The Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn in action

When entering service, the Hornisse was issued to six of the newly-formed heavy antitank battalions, the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 560, 655, 525, 93, 519 and 88, each with 45 vehicles. The main gun was derived from the regular 88 mm (3.46 in) Pak 43, one of the most effective anti-tank guns of the war, and later used, with few modifications, on the Ferdinand/Elefant, Tiger II and Jagdpanther.

In addition, the Panzergranate 40/43 tungsten carbide–cored round could defeat 190 mm (7.48 in) of RHA at a 30° angle at 1,000 m. This allowed the Hornisse to engage enemy units while staying out of range themselves. So there was no need for armor protection. It was reported several times that T-34s were destroyed at distances of around 4000 meters, in almost direct fire. Usually, the prey were the “hard-skinned” KV, IS-2, SU-152, ISU-122 and ISU-152.

This made the Nashorn the first of the German alpha predator bred for the Eastern Front. The Sd.Kfz.164 was first blooded at the Battle of Kursk, and performed quite well, engaging heavies like the KV-1. Its long-range ability was found particularly adapted to the open and flat landscapes of Russia. Added to this, the open fighting compartment gave excellent peripheral vision compared to an enclosed turret.

After Kursk, three of these Abteilungen, the 560 sPzJagAbt, 655th sPzJagAbt and 525 sPzJagAbt, were sent to Italy. They again proved to be successful tank destroyers. Six more schwere Panzerjager Abteilungens (560, 655, 525, 93, 519 and 88), each equipped counting 30 Nashorns, saw service on the Eastern Front, Normandy and Italy. Each Abteilung was composed of a command company and 2-3 companies (14-17 tank hunters each) with 4 platoons each.

There was a Nashorn ace, platoon commander of 1st company, sPzJagAbt 519, Junior Lieutenant “Tiger of Vitebsk” Albert Ernst. On December, 23, 1943, he destroyed 14 Soviet tanks in a single day with 21 rounds near Vitebsk. In December 1943, he destroyed 19 more enemy tanks and was awarded the Knight’s Cross.

Lieutenant Beckmann from sPzJagAbt 88, destroyed a Soviet IS-2 at the amazing distance of 4600 meters near Marzdorf in March 1945. A Nashorn from the 2nd Company, Abteilung 93 destroyed the only M26 Pershing in Europe, at 250 meters, with the first shot, in Niehl, north of Cologne, March 6, 1945.

Links and resources about the Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn

The Nashorn on Wikipedia
The Nashorn on Achtung Panzer
Czechoslovakian Army records


Nashorn 88mm tank destroyer had a five man crew
The German Nashorn self propelled 88mm gun had a five man crew

Nashorn 88mm self-propelled gun in winter whitewash livery on the Eastern Front. The crew are loading ammunition.
Nashorn 88mm self-propelled gun in winter whitewash livery on the Eastern Front. The crew are loading ammunition.

German Nashorn self propelled gun was used as a tank destroyer. It can be found at the U.S. Army Center for Military History Storage Facility, Anniston, AL, USA
German Nashorn self propelled gun was used as a tank destroyer. It can be found at the U.S. Army Center for Military History Storage Facility, Anniston, AL, USA

This 88mm tank killing gun was mounted on the specially designed Geschützwagen III/IV tank chassis.
The 88mm tank killing gun was mounted on the specially designed Geschützwagen III/IV tank chassis

Czechoslovakian Army Nashorns

Surviving Nashorns self-propelled guns were used by the Czechoslovakian Army after WW2. Twelve vehicles underwent renovation and entered service in 1950. They were officially called “Samohybné děla Nashorn (88 mm ShPTK vz. 43/41N, SD-88). They were later withdrawn from Army service and presumably scrapped.
Czechoslovakian Army records recorded the original German production chassis number (Fgst.Nr) of the Nashorns that entered their service.

German Fahrgestellnummer 310004, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 121, army registration number 79.671

German Fahrgestellnummer 310077, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 24, army registration number 79.672

German Fahrgestellnummer 310032, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 184, army registration number 79.973

German Fahrgestellnummer 84494, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 182, army registration number 79.974

German Fahrgestellnummer 84431, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 169, army registration number 79.975

German Fahrgestellnummer 310294, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 175, army registration number 79.976

German Fahrgestellnummer 84431, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 98, army registration number 79.977

German Fahrgestellnummer 310093, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 190, army registration number 79.978

German Fahrgestellnummer 84433, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 47, army registration number 79.979

German Fahrgestellnummer 310437, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 97, army registration number 79.980

German Fahrgestellnummer 310398, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 69, army registration number 79.981

German Fahrgestellnummer 84432, date in service 2nd June 1950,
Tactical unit number 110, army registration number 79.982

Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn specifications

Dimensions (L-W-H)8.44m (7.26m without gun) x 2.95m x 2.65m
27’8″ (23’10” without gun) x 9’8″ x 8’8″ ft.inch
Total weight, battle ready24 tons (52,910 lbs)
Armament88 mm (3.46 in) L/71 Pak 43/1
ArmorHull 20-30 mm (0.78-1.18 in)
Sides 10-15 mm (0.39 – 0.59 in)
Crew4/5 (driver, commander, gunner, loader)
PropulsionMaybach 11.9 liter V-12 gasoline 300 PS (296 hp, 221 kW), 12 hp/t
Speed42 km/h (26 mph)
SuspensionLeaf spring
Range and consumption235 km (146 mi), 470 l/100 km
Total production394

Germans Tanks of ww2
Germans Tanks of ww2

Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn
Sd.Kfz.164 Hornisse of the 2nd Schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 560, Kursk, summer 1943.
Hornisse in winter camouflage, Russia, 1943.
Hornisse of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 519, Group center, Vitebsk area, Russia, winter 1943-44.
Nashorn from sPzJagAbt 88.
Nashorn of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 88, Russia.
Nashorn from sPzJagAbt 88.
Another Nashorn of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 88, Russia, 1944.
Nashorn in Italy, 1944
Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn of the schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 525 in Italy, summer 1944.
Another Nashorn in service in Italy.
Sd.Kfz.164 Nashorn in Italy, schwere Panzerjäger Abteilungen 525.

Jagdpanzer IV
Marder II Sd.Kfz.131
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22 Responses to Nashorn 8.8cm SPG

  1. Peter says:

    Hello! Thanks for a great site!
    Do you have information about the Sd.Kfz. 165 Hummel?

    Best regards,

  2. Frank Medici says:

    Unfortunately the Nashorn’s armor was weak, but the 8,8cm cannon was deadly!

    • Stiltzkin says:

      That is not a big problem for a Vehicle like the Nashorn. The armour was enough to protect from small arms fire and shrapnel. Capable of long range fire support and the abililty to engage targets at 1,5-2000meters (~ 1 to 1,2 miles), only matched by the Ferdinands and Panthers.

      Best regards

    • Sam Haskins says:

      It’s a lot better than the armor they give to AT gun crews, isn’t it? Yet they managed to engage enemy armor all the time, and it wasn’t a suicide mission. Anti-tank guns actually knocked out a lot more tanks than other tanks did (although I’m not sure if that counts vehicle-mounted AT guns or not). Because that’s what this is: it’s an anti-tank gun mounted on a tracked chassis to make it mobile. it’s not a tank, it isn’t expected nor designed to stand up to enemy fire. If a regular AT gun can survive and be lethal with nothing but a splinter shield, why does everyone automatically assume a vehicle with tracks and a gun needs to have thick armor to survive? SPGs are more visible than AT guns, but to counter, they are a lot more mobile and able to move faster after taking a few shots, whereas an AT gun has to hook up to a tractor (or horses) and haul out of harms way. Yet AT gun crews routinely survived, as well as anyone did on the battlefield. Don’t confuse a self-propelled AT gun like the Nashorn with well-armored units designed to take on tanks head-to-head, like the Jagdpanther or Elefant. Those were intended for an entirely different service (although they would work as SPGs in a pinch, albeit with reduced visibility and less mobility).

  3. unicornman says:

    could the Nashorn Be used as a Tank Destroyer if a. it had targets and b. was in an ambush like postion and by that i mean well hidden?


    • Sam says:

      That is exactly what it was built for. Didn’t you read the article? It doesn’t even need to be “hidden”; it is capable of destroying any Soviet tank of that era from over a mile, or at least well beyond the range of accurate counterfire from the guns they had. They snipe at enemy tanks from a mile away, knocking them out, and they retreat if the enemy try to get any closer. Ambush from closer is certainly possible, but it’s ignoring the strengths of the 88mm L/71 – great range and accuracy – and allowing the better-armored enemy to get within killing range. Would be foolish, except in emergencies. It would be like being the only man to bring a gun to a fight, and then using it as a club instead of using it to shoot down your opponents before they can reach you. The strength of a gun is that you can take out the other guy from 50 feet away or more, which is why anyone that steps within arms range of a person who have at gunpoint (like in Hollywood) is a complete idiot.

  4. Attila says:

    “Armament 88 mm (3.46 in) L/60 Pak 43/1” L/60?? Not L/71?

  5. Meh says:

    Hi, where did you see that Nashorn was used in Normandy? Have you got any source?

  6. Viktor Zhuravlev says:

    Could you please confirm the 4600 meters kill record claim?

  7. Todd Reaker says:

    the best sniper tank of the war.

    al least in my opinion.

  8. Sam says:

    Why does the infobox say “Pak 43 L/60”? It’s an L/71. I don’t think they even made an “L/60”, just the L/48 and L/71. Confused me for a minute, I had to go back and reread the article. You ought to fix that.

  9. Bob Howie says:

    These guys could do with your help finding out any info on their vehicle. They had almost completed a 4 year renovation when a catastrophic fire at their storage site destroyed it, so, now they have to start again.
    If you can help all they have is the chassis number – 310063, you can contact them at the above site.

  10. Bob Howie says:

    Something I have not been able to find is photos of the inside of the Nashorn. I am trying to find out what the Switchboard looked like as I have to try to find some of the parts for a project to restore one.

    • Stan Lucian says:

      Your best bet is probably contacting Anniston (US) or Kubinka (Russia) to see if they could send you photos of theirs.

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