Despite the focus by German vehicle engineers to produce excellent frontline combat tanks during World War 2, there appeared to be relatively low priority given to dedicated self-propelled artillery systems designed from the ground up. Engineers were generally pressed into using existing, sometimes outmoded, chassis and hulls in which to provide a required solution for German Army needs. The SdKfz 124 "Wespe" became one such vehicle though it proved a resounding success as a straightforward conversion of the Panzer II series light tank.
Germany invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939 to officially begin World War 2. Hitler's army eventually conquered Norway, the Low Countries and France in April-June of 1940. During the fighting, it was soon realized the tactical limitations inherent in the early Panzer light tanks in both armor and armament. The Panzer I was fielded with machine gun-only armament while the Panzer II managed a 20mm cannon. The point was driven further home in June of 1941 when German invaded the Soviet Union to begin the long-awaited "Eastern Front". Actions of these Panzers soon marked the types wholly obsolete and these were succeeded by the more capable Panzer III and Panzer IV medium tanks - the former intended for direct enemy tank contact and the latter for infantry support. This left the German Army with scores of reliable Panzer Is and Panzer IIs still of operational use (1,493 of the former were produced and 1,856 of the latter). To supplement the new generation of German tanks while reconstituting the chassis of outmoded types, it was decided to forge a new hull superstructure atop the Panzer II chassis, retaining the powerplant and running gear of the original for simple logistical and mechanical friendliness. To this would be affixed a capable field gun to become a self-propelled artillery (SPA) / fire support vehicle and beef up the German Army reach in the field. Design was managed by the Alkett concern and initially involved the Panzer II Ausf. F ("Model F") systems with work beginning in 1942.
The 12-ton Wespe was delivered to German frontline forces in 1943 and absorbed into Panzer artillery battalions and mechanized infantry divisions. Six howitzers made up a single battery with five batteries assigned to a battalion. It was pressed into action against Soviet forces along the Eastern Front where early gains has now turned into unacceptable losses and stalemates. Wespe systems performed so well that it overtook manufacture of all future Panzer II hulls and precedent over Marder II conversions in time (under Hitler's direct personal order). The little vehicle was very well-liked by her crews for her agility, speed and inherent firepower. During the North Africa campaign, the Wespe proved a godsend for the Afrika Corps operating in the inhospitable desert environment though with generally unobstructed views against the horizon. The vehicle held the required range to reach out against embedded enemy targets and the firepower to dislodge stubborn forces. What it lacked was protection which almost always required that it be fielded with supporting vehicles and personnel and set well aft of the frontline. Additionally, the 40 x 105mm onboard projectiles limited inherent ammunition availability.
The Wespe was produced in only one other major variant, a dedicated ammunition carrier has its gun barrel, recoil mechanism and mounting removed to make room for 90 x 105mm projectiles. 158 of this vehicle were manufactured and retained the fighting prowess of the armed version. As such, a 105mm gun system salvaged from a lost Wespe could be fitted to the ammunition carrier to bring the carrier to the original Wespe fighting standard. A complete Wespe unit consisted of six SdKfz 124 gun platforms and one ammunition carrier assigned in support (the ammunition carrier could also be replaced by a supply truck or other tracked vehicle). Despite always intended as an interim SPA solution, Wespe vehicles were in play up to the end of the war in Europe which concluded May of 1945, such was its value and battlefield lethality. The vehicle appeared on all major fronts involving German Army units.
- Fire Support / Assault / Breaching
15.78 ft (4.81 m)
7.48 ft (2.28 m)
7.55 ft (2.3 m)
12 tons (11,175 kg; 24,637 lb)
25 mph (40 kph)
137 miles (220 km)
against any other in our database)
1 x 105mm LeFH 18/2 L/26 main gun
1 x 7.92mm MG34 general purpose machine gun
32 to 40 x 105mm projectiles
600 x 7.92mm ammunition
SdKfz 124 "Wespe" - Base Production Model Series Designation; hull based on the Panzer II tank series; 676 examples produced.
Ammunition Carrier - Carried an additional 90 projectiles; based on the SdKfz design sans gun; some 139 to 159 examples produced.